NREGA implementation poor in State
The Hindu, 27 Nov 2006
Kerala has no data on total employment provided or the expenses incurred
# NREGS being implemented in Palakkad and Wayanad
# NREGS envisages 100 days' employment at minimum wages to every rural household
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Although Kerala is being ruled by the Left parties that had played a major role in ensuring the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), the State apparently fares very badly when it comes to implementing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).
According to official figures, updated as on October 13, Kerala has no figures to give for total employment provided or the expenditure incurred on implementation of the scheme. Kerala has only Meghalaya for company in this. Both the States have two districts where NREGS is under implementation. The districts in Kerala are Palakkad and Wayanad, both under media and policy scanner for the last several months for the deep agrarian distress they have been experiencing for several years now. The NREGS envisages provision of a minimum of 100 days' employment at minimum wages to each rural household on demand in the selected districts.
As many as 6,16,309 rural households in Palakkad and Wayanad, including 57,810 rural Below Poverty Line (BPL) families, are eligible for employment under the scheme. The Government had received as many as 2,27,057 applications for registration under the scheme and 2,25,615 job cards were issued. Yet, by the time figures relating to implementation of the NREGS were updated in mid-October, the State Government could not come up with exact figures about the demand for employment or employment provided or the actual expenditure on implementation of the scheme. This has happened despite Rs. 21.79 crore being released for the purpose this year. The money remains unspent, if one were to go by what the officials suggest.
The NREGS was launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in February 2006 and reports from different parts of the country suggest that implementation of the scheme is marked by corruption and leakages at several of the 200 districts chosen for initial implementation of the scheme.
The `Wada Na Todo Abhiyan,' which has tried to monitor implementation of the scheme at the national level, feels that there are several lacunae in the scheme and has suggested registration be made an ongoing process, there being greater safeguards on payment of wages, identification of better parameters for defining `household' and provisions for greater involvement of the Panchayat Raj institutions in the implementation of the scheme.
Kerala's problems are unique and have to do with the high wage levels and mismatch in the yardsticks used by the Union and State Governments to identify the beneficiary families.