A detailed report by intelligence agency and admission of the rampart corruption in implementation of NREGS by the Rural Development Minister Bharat Singh has put the Congress party and its government in the dock. Both the things happened within the span of a week and have put the government and the Congress party in an embarrassing situation. During the BJP government, the Congress used the alleged corruption in NREGS as a major tool to attack the BJP government. At that time CP Joshi, now Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj, under which NREGS comes, as an opposition MLA was in forefront in attacking the BJP on the issue. That time, Ashok Gehlot, as AICC general secretary along with Shri Joshi repeatedly claimed that if their party comes to power it would cleanse NREGS from the corruption. But now many feels that with change in government, the corruption in NREGS has reached to new heights.
On May 27, Singari, working as a daily wage-earner under NREGS, near his village Rohat in Pali district, lodged an FIR with the local police station that thieves have stolen Rs 18 lakh from his house while he was away on work.
This surprised the police and other local officials. The reason being, how a lakhpati could be enrolled as a daily-wager, whereas the scheme is primarily meant to provide 100-day work in a year to the unemployed and poor families in the rural areas. There is a provision of social auditing under NREGS, to ensure the proper utilisation of funds to see the only members of targeted families get the benefits of the scheme. In the past, Megsaysay award winner Aruna Roy-led Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti carried out these kinds of auditing in some districts and pointed out to the government how fake muster-rolls are being prepared to syphon off the funds and local sarpanchs are enrolling their close relatives, who otherwise are not eligible to get the job cards, and the needy ones are being left out. There were complaints that a good number of labours provided works under the scheme, never got the minimum wages prescribed by the government
Though the purpose of this auditing by MKSS was to nail down the state government as Aruna Roy and her team carried out this exercise on the behest of the UPA government at the Centre, the BJP government used the audit reports to rectify the lacunas.
Rajasthan, during the BJP rule, topped the states for successful and efficient implementation of the scheme for three consecutive years. Now with the change of guards in the state, the onus to keep the state on top in implementation of the scheme has come on the Congress government in Rajasthan. It has already started feeling the heat of growing discontent in the rural areas over the alleged corruption and other irregularities. Staging dharnas and road-jams by the daily wage-earners have become the order of the day. The complaints of less wages and delay in payments are the main reasons for resentment.
An intelligence report, submitted to the government early this month, spoke about the growing resentment among the daily wage-earners under NREGS for giving less wages, delay in payment and corruption by the officials concerned. Few days later Bharat Singh, publicly admitted corruption in NREGS and the government is finding extremely difficult to check it. Panicked by this report Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot recently alerted the district collectors and police superintendents to keep a close watch on the situation. At the same time he directed them to take immediate remedial measures to check the growing number of complaints before the situation goes out of control. After receiving the report from the intelligence department of the police, Mr Gehlot convened a meeting of senior officials to review the situation and decided to act immediately. According to highly-placed sources, the intelligence report said that if steps are not taken immediately, this growing resentment among the daily wage-earners may lead to law and order problem at places.
Gehlot gave specific instructions to the collectors to ensure the payment of wages for the month of May latest by June 20. There was delay, at places, in payment of wages, for the month of April, which led to protests by labour given employment under the scheme
It was also decided to convene a meeting of district collectors at the earliest to discuss the measures for better and smooth implementation of the scheme. The intelligence reports said that most of the complaints are related to payment of less wages than prescribed under the scheme, tampering with the muster-rolls by showing more labour than the actual number employed by the supervisors to syphon off the wages of inflated laboures. Delay in starting the work in parts of some districts and discrimination at lower level in issuing the job cards are the root cause of the resentments, the report said.
The new government had promised the daily wage-earner women that if they completed 100 days as daily-wager, they would be entitled to a sari and a ghaghra. But this promise is yet to be fulfilled, which gave a tool to the labour to protest against the government. Under the scheme, officials concerned have to make arrangements for drinking water and a shed at the site for the labours. But funds allotted for the same are being pocketed by the officials concerned, the report said. During the current financial year, the state government would receive Rs 9525 crore, the highest among the states, and has fixed the target of providing 100-day wages to 71.12 lakh families in the rural areas. Only in the last week of May, Gehlot asked the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department to include such works under the scheme, which could be of permanent nature and would prove assets for the government in the long run.
He has also directed the officials to include the works of other departments under this scheme, keeping in view the large funds being received from the Centre under the scheme.
To supervise the works under NREGS, the previous government had recruited people under contracts. But the new government has decided to keep permanent employees for the purpose.