In the face of mounting criticism on the way Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (Mgnregs) was being implemented arbitrarily, the Rural Development Ministry on Tuesday agreed to set up a sub-group to suggest measures for effective execution of the law.
Conceding the demand raised at the meeting of the Central Employment Guarantee Council (CEGC), the governing body for the Mgnregs, Rural Development Minister C.P. Joshi formed a six-member sub-group under department secretary B.K. Sinha. The other members are Jean Dreze, Aruna Roy, Mihir Shah, Madhusudan Mistry and Ashwini Kumar.
The sub-group will decide on issues such as the setting up of an executive committee for effective functioning of the council, wage policy social auditing and accountability, monitor and evaluate the scheme as a whole.
In regard to the demand for linking the wage rate to the consumer price index, the Minister said that he would decide only after the task force set up by him submited its report.
Dr. Joshi, however, pushed his prime agenda of constructing the Bharat Nirman Rajiv Gandhi Sewa Kendra at the panchayat and block levels assuring members like Prof. Dreze that their reservations would be considered.
The Minister told reporters later that he had assured the CEGC that only 40 percent of the Mgnregs funds would be utilised for construction of these buildings just as to cover the labour component of the project. The material component will be derived from funds allocated under the Backward Region Grant Fund and the money allocated for MPs and legislators for execution of schemes of their choice.
As for the demand for staggering the project over four to five years as not to stifle the prime objective of providing jobs to the needy in the rural areas, Dr. Joshi clarified that it would not be possible for any State to construct so many buildings in just a couple of years and the completion of the project would take quite a few years.
The department has decided to construct 2.75 lakh Sewa Kendras at the panchayat level at Rs. 10 lakh each and block-level buildings at Rs. 25 lakh each entailing an expenditure of about Rs. 30,000 crore.
Dr. Joshi argued that construction of the kendras was a prerequisite for the proper implementation of the Act and for providing e-enabled services at the panchayat level. Without a building ensuring e-governance was not possible nor would the government realise the revenue that came with the e-enabled services rendered.