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Why MGNREGA is a flop

July 18, 2014 14:09 IST

A nexus between the panchayat president and the block development officer has led to the failure of Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme in many villages, says A Ganesh Nadar/ 

The Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act was one of the United Progressive Alliance government’s most touted schemes. But it was also one of the biggest government money guzzlers and source of corruption.        

Every worker under MGNREGA is supposed to get a work card but panchayat presidents do not release these cards. Instead when about 45 workers turn up for work the panchayat president marks 55 cards to pocket the extra money.

When the government tried putting the money directly into the workers’ bank accounts, the panchayat presidents found a workaround. They added names to his list and struck a deal with the workers. The workers were not required to come to work but were promised half the salary. The other half went to the panchayat president.

An official is required to mark the work area at 8 am and return at 4 pm to check if the allotted work has been completed. Wages were cut if the project was supervised by an honest official. However, the communist parties organised a dharna at the district collectorate saying that wages were not reaching the workers. The official was pulled up and asked to explain the reasons.

One of the drawbacks of the MGNREGA scheme is a provision that funds must not be used to buy material. Workers therefore can only work with mud.

So they build mud roads where they are not needed and clean river beds, lake beds, water sources in a sloppy manner.

In some villages they dig trenches and the next day fill it back.

All work in the village is done through a tender system. The lowest bidder gets the work. The amount promised to the contractor includes money for material and labour. The money for labour should be paid from the MGNREGA funds.

Contractors spoke to said that the registered workers in the village were usually not fit to work and the oldest in the village.

Contractors should be allowed to fire workers not fit to work. contractors who do not agree to these conditions -- their contracts must be cancelled and payment to genuine workers must be given only through their bank accounts.

Corruption in the MGNREGA scheme will not end as long as there is a nexus between the panchayat president and the block development officer and infrastructure needed for villages will not be done unless the provision about not buying materials is removed from MGNREGA.

Image: Villagers working in a field under the NREGA programme. Photographs: Reuters   

A Ganesh Nadar