Poor feedback forces postponement of job scheme revamp

June 23rd, 2008 - 1:44 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi
By Rajeev Ranjan Roy
New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) Poor feedback from the field has forced a postponement in the revamp of India’s largest job guarantee scheme that is the flagship of the ruling United Progressive Alliance government. The rural development ministry had set a June 15 deadline for national level monitors (NLMs) to deliver their reports on the implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) that assures 100 days of work every year to one family member of every household in each of India’s 604 districts.

The deadline has now been extended to June 30.

“NLMs are submitting their status reports, but it will take some time for all the reports to come in,” Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh told IANS.

“The ministry will scrutinise these reports and will identify the loopholes that require corrective measures. NREGS is a huge scheme and needs constant and effective monitoring at the grassroots level,” Singh added.

As for the next step, an official said: “By first week of July, the reports will be compiled for discussion in the ministry.

“Directives will then be sent to the respective states for taking whatever action is required,” the official told IANS, requesting anonymity.

According to the minister, “the status reports have to be exhaustive so that corrective measures can be initiated accordingly”.

The ministry had engaged over 260 NLMs for monitoring the NREGS in 330 districts where it was first implemented in 2006. Additional monitors have been engaged to cover the remaining 274 districts to which the scheme was extended April 1.

The monitors are retired defence and civilian employees with adequate experience in administration of developmental works. The ministry has asked them for their independent assessment of the scheme’s implementation.

The scheme, aimed at helping out over 270 million of India’s poorest of the poor, provided jobs to over 30 million households in 330 districts in 2007-08. The number of beneficiaries is likely to go up to 60 million households in the current fiscal after being rolled out in the remaining 274 districts.

The minister, while admitting to difficulties in ensuring transparency in implementing the scheme, said the onus lay on the state governments in playing a proactive role in its execution.

“Though centrally funded, the states are the real agencies to ensure the scheme is effectively implemented so that the benefits percolate to the targeted sections of society,” Singh said.

Singh, while addressing a workshop of NLMs here May 8, had urged them to properly monitor the scheme.

“I am open to healthy criticism from all stakeholders and expect them to join us in removing loopholes,” Singh had said.

The rural job scheme has drawn flak not only from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) but also from ruling United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi and her parliamentarian son Rahul Gandhi for NREGS’ faulty implementation.

Rahul Gandhi, who is also a Congress general secretary, had in April led a crowd to the commissioner’s residence in Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh after the people complained of difficulty in getting jobs.

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