MGNREGA Allocations Cut! What Is the Way for Rural Development ?
By Vikas Jha – Group Leader, Goof Rural Governance
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA), one of the most celebrated flagship schemes of UPA II, witnessed a cut in allocation in the budget 2012-13. The budget for the scheme has been reduced by Rs 7,000 crores to Rs 33,000 crores. This stands as the lowest allocation to the programme since UPA II came to power in 2009. According to the authorities, the reason is non-utilization of previous year’s fund: 36% of allocated fund for MNREGA in 2011-12 was not utilized.
Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of Rural Development, says the government is going to focus more on improving the administrative structure at the grassroots level so that the scheme can generate better results with limited resources. But how is the government going to do that?
The experiences of MGNREGA in Mewat district, Haryana bring to record many problems in the implementation of MGNREGA projects. For one thing, there is a lack of capacity among Panchayats: We see the lack of awareness among the Panchayats about the rules and regulations of the Act and often find the projects they propose do not qualify for funding under the Act. Also, there is a huge shortage of human resources at the block level. For example, a junior engineer at the block level has responsibility of preparing technical estimates of work in 60 to 70 villages with the help of Gram Panchayat. To fulfill this responsibility, the assigned engineers need plans for clearly outlined government’s support structures. However, we have not seen those plans yet. Improving administrative structure is often a repeated solution to rural development but we require a definite plan.
The same analogy applies to Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Sashaktikaran Abhiyan (RGPSA) announced under the Union Budget 2012-13. This is a major initiative to strengthen Panchayats across the country: A positive step but we do not see the budgetary allocations or operational plans for it.
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