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Fund leakage in NREGS worries World Bank


Though a recent study by World Bank calls the rural job guarantee scheme of India as innovative but it also expresses concerns over uneven implementation across states and leakage of funds.

The study ‘Social Protection for a Changing India’ says ensuring better awareness among villagers about the processes and benefits of the scheme will help in more successful implementation of the programme. It further recommends an effective system to monitor and evaluate the system to avoid its misuse.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has seen “impressive inclusion” of scheduled castes (31 per cent), scheduled tribes (25 per cent) and women (50 per cent), resulting in much higher coverage compared to previous public works programmes. “MGNREGA serves as a model for future reforms in other safety net programmes”, observes the study.

However, the WB report mentions that uneven implementation of MGNREGA across States remains a cause of concern. While about 90 per cent rural households availed the benefits of the scheme in Rajasthan and between 60 to 80 per cent families in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the percentage was less than 20 per cent in States like Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Gujarat.

Leakage of funds and delay in fund transfers to panchayats are other concerns that need to be taken seriously, suggests the report. According to the report, fudging muster rolls, misuse of job cards and account passbooks are some of the ways through which corrupt officials and local elected representatives siphon off funds.

“In practice, unavailable and fudged master rolls continue to be a serious issue. Job card entries are rarely made. In fact, job cards are not always in the possession of the household; instead the Sarpanch or other local official may hold it. The problems are exacerbated by low awareness of processes as well as high levels of illiteracy among MGNREG workers,” the report says.

“In addition, the capacity of PRIs (Panchayati Raj Institutions) to conduct their intended functions is very weak,” the report said. A range of functions - including planning, execution and monitoring - are expected to be performed by PRIs but it is a difficult challenge, the report says.

The report, the first comprehensive review of India’s anti-poverty initiative, which was started in 2004, used data from ministries, national sample surveys and World Bank studies.

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Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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