The scathing report by the CAG on the UPA-II government’s flagship programme MGNREGA points yet again to the gaping chasms in the mechanisms of state functioning at all levels of operation. While the MGNERGA had every good intention to take employment to the remotest corners of rural India, its massive failure in terms of proper implementation of the projects, along with ensuring timely and successful completion of the works taken up, gives cause for concern. The CAG report has found huge fund misallocation, which is a shame, particularly because publicly funded welfare schemes are still needed in a country as vast as India that houses most of the world’s poor. Time and time again, the CAG has been tirelessly pointing out the systemic deficit in the state machinery when it comes to implementation of much-touted government programmes. In the latest report on MGNREGA, the CAG has found Rs 13,000 crore worth of irregularities in the UPA government’s biggest cash-for-work rural employment scheme. The fact that, according to the CAG report, which was leaked earlier into the media, but its findings were unusually hushed up by certain sections of media and the political class, money amounting to Rs 6,500 has been spent which have not led to any ‘asset creation’, indicates that the execution of these massive projects has not been done in a coherent and well-thought out manner, which could have reduced the gaps between expenditures and outcomes. While several assignments had been started under MGNREGA, only 30 per cent of them have reached or crossed the completion stage, thus pointing out the snail pace at which the government undertakings had been progressing, if at all.
Other findings – such as disproportionate distribution, for example giving merely 20 per cent of funds under the scheme to really needy states like Bihar, UP or Maharashtra; employing ghostworkers (or fake names that exist only on paper, but that draw money nevertheless) in several states, particularly in Karnataka; bungling of funds in states like Assam; incorrect recordkeeping and balance sheets not adding up; and finally, issuing of cheques under the scheme by the government employees themselves – are equally damning. In the wake of these findings, UPA’s leading public service mission aimed at the poor and rural dwellers has been put in a tight spot. What was supposed to be a pioneering programme has now all the traits of turning out to be a supreme embarrassment for the government that is already buried under a mountain of scam allegations. Unless the government strikes at the root of corruption, such as in telecom, coal block, NREGA, mining, land grab and innumerable other ills plaguing the system, it will be impossible to convince the voters to bring back the UPA government to the seat of power. It is a shame that the Congress, which till date has credited itself on being secular and pro-poor as against the overtly bigoted and corporatised approach of the Narendra Modi-led development plank of BJP, has now been duly exposed to be a party of fraudulent scamsters.