In its anxiety to execute the Bharat Nirman Rajiv Gandhi Sewa Kendra, the Rural Development Ministry has decided that buildings be constructed mainly with funds meant for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS).
Earlier, in the face of opposition from several quarters that utilising the MNREGS funds for building the kendras at the panchayat and block levels would defeat the purpose of the law guaranteeing jobs to the needy, the Centre said that only 40 per cent of the MNREGS funds would be utilised for the construction and that it would be funded mostly by other schemes. The government decided that in backward regions, construction would be taken care of with funds allocated under the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF). However, this fund covers only those districts designated as backward, and is not available to the majority of the districts across the country.
Now, the government has said the MNREGS will be the “main source” of finance for construction of Kendra buildings in non-BRGF districts. Also, the Ministry has noted, the material component could be complemented by other schemes as well.
At the panchayat level, a building is estimated to cost at least Rs. 10 lakh and at the block level, Rs. 25 lakh.
Most State governments have refused to construct these buildings with MNREGS funds, demanding a separate allocation for the purpose. Even with respect to the MNREGS, the Centre has not made any substantial increase in its allocation for 2010-11. The additional provision in the budget proposal is Rs.1,000 crore, raising the annual allocation to Rs.40,100 crore, as against the demand for almost Rs.66,000 crore made by the Rural Development Ministry.
The basic idea behind the construction of these buildings is to provide information and communication technology in rural areas for ensuring transparency and accountability in MNREGS implementation.
But with the Department unable to raise funds for it separately, the Ministry has hit upon the idea that six per cent of the MNREGS funds, permitted for use under the administrative head, could be used for this purpose as well.