Rural job guarantee scheme inflated: Study

May 13th, 2009 - 9:25 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 13 (IANS) Rural jobs shown to have been created under a centrally-sponsored scheme are often grossly inflated, a study released here Wednesday by former Reserve Bank of India governor Bimal Jalan said.
“There were a large number of districts in many states, where the number of households that have been issued job cards is more than the total number of households in these districts,” the report said.

The study, ‘Evaluating Performance of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act’, was jointly conducted by Public Interest Foundation (PIF), a non-profit organisation that Jalan heads, and the Delhi-based think tank National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER).

“The scheme has worked well but the level of satisfaction has been only 50 percent,” Jalan said while releasing the study.

“It is a good scheme (NREGA), but it will be successful only if it is made a national people’s scheme rather than that of any party.”

The study has suggested that job cards for beneficiaries be regularly filled up at the work sites to prevent fudging of job creation figures, and said the scheme ought to be implemented by states.

“We should make NREGA a state-formulated scheme, the main provisions of which should be controlled by the state. However, it should still be part of the central act,” Jalan said.

Criticising the government estimates about employment trends, the study said: “The claim of provision of 100 days of employment to 10 percent households in the official data is also doubtful because independent surveys, social audits, and field studies have revealed several cases of data manipulations.”

However, Jalan said NREGA has improved the share of scheduled tribe (ST) households in employment and the it also “outshines the earlier programmes as far as participation of women is concerned”.

The report added that the official estimates of wages realised by workers were “inflated” as the actual wages received by workers were much less than what was shown in the documents.

The study recommends penalising of states that violate the Act. Some of its major recommendations are:

*Providing dedicated staff to oversee the project

*Raising the limit of administrative expense and getting states to share half of that

*Handing over job cards to all households seeking employment under NREGA and punishing those who are hoarding job cards

*Regular checking and verification of bank or post office accounts

*Putting in place a grievance redressal system

*Fixing wages slightly below market rates

“NREGA is a good scheme especially for poor and thus it is critical to improve the working of the scheme. We, therefore, need a simple NREGA without complex administrative procedures for the common man,” Jalan added.

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