Congress chief, Prime Minister call for timely payment of wages

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday brought up the alleged embezzlement of funds meant for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme — an issue that has put the Mayawati government in the dock — at a function commemorating the completion of six years of the job entitlement scheme.

Holding the State governments responsible for the shortcomings, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh directed them to ensure timely payment of wages to the MGNREGS workers.

Without naming the Bahujan Samaj Party government in U.P., against which the Congress-led UPA government has been pressing for a CBI enquiry, Ms. Gandhi said loot of MGNREGS money amounted to a crime against the poor.

She said the plunder was tantamount to doing injustice to the Father of the Nation, as the scheme was named after him.

Her warning that such irregularities should not be ignored was a clear message for the government to pursue the enquiry process. She also hailed the social audit process as an effective instrument to expose irregularities.

Ms. Gandhi expressed happiness that the CAG had also been roped in to enquire into utilisation of the rural job scheme funds, to pinpoint the irregularities, and place accountability.

She said, apart from the social audits, reports of State Quality Monitors showed how the funds had been ‘embezzled' in U.P., following which Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh wrote to Ms. Mayawati demanding a CBI enquiry, which she declined.

When a PIL was filed before the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, the Centre in its response affidavit supported the demand for a CBI enquiry.

Ms. Gandhi also pulled up the economically backward States for their ‘failure' to implement the scheme. She also deprecated the delay in the payment of wages.

Calling the delay in payment of wages as a cause for concern, Dr. Singh said owing to inadequate staff, it was not possible to carry out the verification process and hand out wages within the stipulated 15-day period. He asked the States to take up the issue on a priority basis.

Pointing to the provision of payment of unemployment allowance to those not provided work within 15 days of placement of demand for a job, the Prime Minister expected the States to abide by the rule.

Hailing the project, Dr. Singh said its convergence with the Integrated Action Plan in Naxalite-affected districts had raised the aspirations of the people.

Dr. Singh called for its proper implementation to speed up the development process, which would eliminate the causes that forced people to resort to the path of violence.