Total mismanagement muddles MGNREGA

Rural Development Department (RDD) has been in the news for quite some time not for achievements in its area of functioning but unfortunately for utter mismanagement and related irregularities which have been periodically reported with intention only to expect changes and improvement in its functioning but all such hopes continue to be belied. The sensitive flagship scheme of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) handled by the RDD has continuously been mishandled , mismanaged and botched to this extent that a whooping liability of Rs. 600 crores has been created by it . The causes of such a huge amount outstanding and pending clearance by this department are many and the situation has reached such a pass that how to clear it, is becoming intricate and difficult to resolve. In Kashmir division, the position is not as ‘precarious’ as it is in Jammu division with outstanding liability at Rs.150 crore and Rs.450 crore respectively.
It is worth noting that this amount does not pertain to one year but full four years. Labourers are not paid their wages which otherwise, under the provisions of the scheme, must be cleared within 14 days of the work completed or the work being in progress. The basis and the rationale behind this scheme is to provide employment of 100 (guaranteed) days to the identified eligible beneficiaries in the rural sector and when wages are not paid to them, it defeats the very purpose of the scheme. Panchas and Sarpanchs are on the roads protesting against the mess created by the RDD in respect of the entire spectrum of MGNREGA and demanding release of wage arrears to the labour force engaged in the work. The question is not only that of non payment of wages but suppliers of the material used in various types of works under the scheme, too have been left to fend for themselves and their bills have not been cleared for full four years.
The question arises as to what problem the concerned department has in not clearing this liability when this scheme is sponsored by the Central Government and funds are promptly released. There have been wrong entries reportedly made which depicts very poor standard of accounting procedures and the same is strangely attributed by the present Head of the department concerned to the “previous” officials knowing fully that a department or any PSU etc was a continuing entity where the circle of related assigned activities never ever stop. Who prevented the present ones in charge to reverse and rectify the wrong entries , make fresh and correct ones, send fresh proposals of expenditures and utilization certificates etc to the concerned Ministry and obtain the funds? On the contrary, reports are that there are huge funds meant for the scheme which are unspent or unutilized . There is one more blatant violation of the norms in that the labour material ratio is grossly violated . What are the reasons and the motive behind throwing to winds, the prescribed ratio to be mandatorily maintained between the labour and the material? That precisely is needed to be ascertained.
The present “management” of the RDD takes “pride” in claiming that the liabilities for the current year were not part of the piled up liabilities of Rs.600 crores or those were not on the high side like in the previous years and they also take “delight” in claiming that the liabilities were not as much as claimed but only Rs.525 crore. The arguments are simply unacceptable, if not ridiculous. Whatever the case, the condition of the RDD, the state of affairs going on there, utter inefficiency and under performance let loose without any fear of accountability call for urgently revamping and overhauling the entire department and subject its working to extensive surprise inspections and recurring audits . A full fledged probe into the entire mess needs to be instituted and accountability fixed . If the same approach as shown by the previous PDD -BJP coalition Government towards the issue of MGNREGA continues even under changed structure , it would be totally ill advised and fraught with long adverse repercussions. Inefficient and work shirkers must be shown the door, the Lieutenant Governor must intervene forthwith and arrange not only to stem the rot but stop it too.