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Online RTI Application for Information of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 - ₹299/

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Launch of the scheme

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 also known as NREGA and MGNREGA came into force to provide employment guarantee of at least 100 days to adults in rural areas. One does not need to have particular skills or education level to get employment under this scheme or it can be said that illiterate and unskilled workers can get manual work to do. Government provides work within 5 kilometers of the residence of the person. One has to apply for work and if applicant does not get work within 15 days of application then an unemployment allowance is payable. It has been hailed by various international organization for being pro poor.

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However, honesty is a commodity in India and comes quite cheap. Like any other government scheme, MGNREGA is also marred with various allegations of corruption, mal practices and gaps in implementation. Problem is - education level in India is low, awareness of self-rights is low and public officials can compromise their honesty with quite ease. Not only every applicant does not get work but also those who get work may not get full 100 days of work as stipulated in the Act. Then there is no guarantee that vultures may not be sitting eyeing to de-rob them of their hard-earned money.

Corruption in scheme

There were instances when money meant for the laborers was pocketed by gram heads and poor laborers kept waiting for their dues forever. This problem was sorted to an extent by direct deposit of benefits into their bank accounts. In some cases, middle men ask for money before allowing funds to be credited to their accounts.

Workers have to wait till the bureaucracy goes through process and releases funds and completion of process can take several days or months. Many times, heads of rural bodies enroll their own family and relatives as applicants and then pocket money through them while in actual no work has been done. Inflation is high but wage increase is not in tandem with inflation, many times states have higher Agri wages than what center has for MNREGA.

During 2011 when Congress party was in power in central government and Bahujan Samaj Party was in power in Uttar Pradesh, it was alleged by senior leaders of Congress that amount of Rs 10,000 crores belonging to MNGREGA was pocketed by corrupt ministers and officers. They alleged that payments were made to non-existent workers, fake invoices were raised for material which was never purchased and firms too never existed. Money meant for well being of MGNREGA workers was used to buy items of convenience of officers. States ruled by regional parties are more prone to corruption as they have little control on leaders within their own party. Similarly, coalition governments at center relying on such regional parties are also more prone to massive scale of corruption.

Extent of corruption was so critical that even Union Government’s efforts to probe into this were stalled by the state governments. Only 40 percent of the funds reached the workers and rest 60 percent was lost to corruption. There were allegations and counter allegations by political leaders but money lost was never recovered.

Bureaucratic lags in the scheme

Now a days, there are 13 crore job card holder and at one time not few but 93 lakh fake job cards existed and were canceled and also names of 3.1 crore fake beneficiaries were removed from the rolls. It was a big hole in the exchequer which was plugged by the new government in center. In terms of amount being siphoned off, it was scam of epic proportions. Millions of the job cards were also cancelled by different states all over the India. They were able to do so because of linking of job cards with Aadhaar, door to door surveys and keeping track of movement of workers from one state to the other and even within state. If worker dies then same is updated in system.

Even if siphoning of funds is ignored then still this scheme is in tatters as flow of funds is not smooth by central government for several reasons. One of the reasons forwarded is that states do not use the whole amount for MGNREGA and instead use a part of it for meeting their fiscal deficit. Funds allocated for this scheme in consecutive budgets is far less than what states demand and what social activists estimate. Several times centre has to sanction supplementary funds as budgeted funds are exhausted too soon. After that there are slow administrative procedures handled by lethargic bureaucracy which have deep impact on effectiveness this scheme. Natural calamities like Draught and Floods led to increase in demand of rural workers and this led to strain on budgetary allocation for this scheme.

Low wages

On an average a MGNREGA worker in India gets ₹178 a day, this is nearly half of what is generally recommended wage of ₹375 by Ministry of Labor. So a laborer working under this scheme not only does not get year round work but also get half of justified daily amount. There are constant voices that wages should be revised the way Pay Commissions does for government employees. Some activists are also in favor of linking it with inflation. As per surveys men in open market are paid 74% more than what they get under this scheme while women get 21% more.

Under MGNREGA payment of wages to workers is also not something which can be called brilliant. A worker needs to be paid within 15 days of completing his/her work but this seldom happens. There are bureaucratic procedures which have to be followed by the state after which funds are released by the Centre. States have to submit things like audited statements, utilization certificates or bank statements and if these are not submitted within timelines then funds are withheld. For sins of state governments, Central government penalizes workers. There is a lot which can be done to streamline the disbursement of payments or penalty clause can be added for state governments for delay in compliance as after all no one should sleep hungry after hard day’s work.

A robust MGNREGA is not only for the welfare of rural poor but is also a must for boosting of rural economy, enhancing their purchasing power and nation building. It will go a long way in upliftment of people from poverty.

Online RTI Act applications and MPLAD Scheme

Power of RTI Act 2005 is quite handy when people face harassment at the hands of officials for not getting money which is due. People can file RTI to know why they have not got the employment while they have applied for it, what all the NREGA projects are going on in areas around them. They can also enquire about status of the amount due, when they are to get them, reasons for the delay in release of funds etc.

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