Though a recent study by World Bank calls the rural job guarantee scheme of India as innovative but it also expresses concerns over uneven implementation across states and leakage of funds.
The study ‘Social Protection for a Changing India’ says ensuring better awareness among villagers about the processes and benefits of the scheme will help in more successful implementation of the programme. It further recommends an effective system to monitor and evaluate the system to avoid its misuse.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has seen “impressive inclusion” of scheduled castes (31 per cent), scheduled tribes (25 per cent) and women (50 per cent), resulting in much higher coverage compared to previous public works programmes. “MGNREGA serves as a model for future reforms in other safety net programmes”, observes the study.
However, the WB report mentions that uneven implementation of MGNREGA across States remains a cause of concern. While about 90 per cent rural households availed the benefits of the scheme in Rajasthan and between 60 to 80 per cent families in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the percentage was less than 20 per cent in States like Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Gujarat.
Leakage of funds and delay in fund transfers to panchayats are other concerns that need to be taken seriously, suggests the report. According to the report, fudging muster rolls, misuse of job cards and account passbooks are some of the ways through which corrupt officials and local elected representatives siphon off funds.
“In practice, unavailable and fudged master rolls continue to be a serious issue. Job card entries are rarely made. In fact, job cards are not always in the possession of the household; instead the Sarpanch or other local official may hold it. The problems are exacerbated by low awareness of processes as well as high levels of illiteracy among MGNREG workers,” the report says.
“In addition, the capacity of PRIs (Panchayati Raj Institutions) to conduct their intended functions is very weak,” the report said. A range of functions - including planning, execution and monitoring - are expected to be performed by PRIs but it is a difficult challenge, the report says.
The report, the first comprehensive review of India’s anti-poverty initiative, which was started in 2004, used data from ministries, national sample surveys and World Bank studies.