Concerned over corruption hampering the proper implementation of the flagship rural job guarantee programme, the Planning Commission on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to set up a national authority to oversee the programme.
Identifying corruption as an important issue, Commission member Mihir Shah in a presentation to the Prime Minister said the Government suggested using IT models to check misuse of MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural employment Guarantee Act) schemes, estimated to cost the exchequer Rs 40,000 crore this fiscal.
To ensure that the benefits of the scheme reach only the target population, the Commission made a strong case for setting up a ‘National Authority for MNREGA’ to coordinate and evaluate the progress of the scheme at the meeting which was also attended by Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
The agenda for reforms of the MNREGA programme, that guarantees a minimum of 100 days of employment in a year to each below poverty line (BPL) family, should include “major check on corruption”, Mr. Shah said.
Elaborating further, Mr. Shah said corruption in the scheme involves cornering of the job cards by the elite, fake muster rolls and ATM cards.
Other major problems include dearth of technical and professional support, lack of awareness of the new features of the scheme and delays in getting permission from the forest departments in tribal areas.
Mr. Shah further suggested that the Government could use information technology on the pattern of the Andhra Pradesh scheme to conduct social audit of the scheme, which aims to provide job to five crore families during the current fiscal.
The Government, he said, could use the TCS-designed software to monitor the scheme and ensure timely payment of money to the beneficiaries.
“Social audit (system) based on State-civil society partnerships (as in) Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan needs replication in all the States,” he added.
He also stressed the need for easy access to banks and post offices stating, “80 million bank/post office accounts (have been) opened for MNREGA workers...and 80 per cent MNREGA payments are being made through this route.”
Mr. Shah said the component of SC/ST workers stand at 51-56 per cent during 2006-10, while women workers are estimated at 41-50 per cent during the period.
He, however pointed out that only 19 per cent of the differently-abled registered workers have got work under the scheme with only Madhya Pradesh issuing specific orders in this connection. As many as 8.50 lakh differently-abled workers are registered under it.