Like many more Central development schemes, the fate of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) in our State is hanging in balance. It has received the same niggardly and hell-may-care treatment from the state authorities throwing tot winds the benefits that would accrue to the people and society if the scheme were implemented in letter and in spirit. That is not the case. The concerned Union Ministry sends repeated reminders and the State Government takes it all non-seriously. The scheme is essentially about employment for the rural youth who have little chances of finding employment in big cities and towns and would remain in their rural localities. But they have to be provided with some means of subsistence. The Centre would like to know the status of the scheme on the ground in J&K and that information is not forthcoming.
An important component of the scheme is appointment of Ombudsman who is supposed to monitor the scheme and see whether it proceeds along the given lines. The programme also stipulates setting up of Social Audit Units. There is non-compliance on both of these pre-requisites. We learn that interview of candidates for Ombudsmen has been made a couple of months ago but selection list has not been issued so far. Why there is inordinate delay in issuing their appointment order is not explained by any source. The Union Government has pointed out this lacuna and asked for the reason why appointments are not made. The Union Ministry has no released he second instalment of assistance for the reason that the report on phase I of the project meaning selection of Ombudsmen has not been conveyed. It is highly discouraging that despite clear instructions carried in MGNREGA, successive Governments in J&K have paid no attention towards the establishing the Directorate of Social Audit despite repeated reminders from the Central Government. The report of the CAG placed before the Parliament had pointed out non-adherence of some states including J&K to the essentials of the scheme including the establishment of Social Audit Councils. If the State has not been able to implement these pre-requisites for last ten years when the scheme was floated, we doubt whether it will ever be possible to do it in near future. The essential purpose of establishing Social Audit Units has been to help in ensuring effective monitoring and analyzing the quality, durability and usefulness of the works and keeping this aspect in the mind a provision was kept under MNGREGA for establishment of Social Audit Units under the direct control of a separate Directorate to be called Directorate of Social Audit. As this requirement has not been fulfilled there is little hope that the second instalment of financial support will be released soon
However under pressure from the Central Government the State Government took a step in March last and constituted a Committee under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary. But even this Committee proved non-performing. What more can be said about State’s lack of serious interest in the welfare of the people it rules over. Actually, the Union Rural Development Ministry had released around Rs 600 crore at the start of current financial year but this amount was meant only for clearance of liability of previous financial year. The effort made by the State Government to identify and overcome some of the shortcomings may help in the release of second instalment of funding that remains withheld so far. The State Government must now understand that most of the Centrally sponsored schemes which are ultimately for the good of the people of the country and especially those living in border areas cannot be and should not be treated so niggardly at the cost of the development of the State.