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Mamata Banerjee is not the first person to point out severe irregularities in Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Time and again, MGNREGA has come under attack for the huge discrepancy between the ideals behind the architecture of this public initiative and the actual ground reality which is reeling under grossly inadequate implementation.

The West Bengal chief minister is right to cast doubt on the mechanism deployed to release funds to states, since it is hardly based on actual performances of the respective regional governments. Instead, fund sanction works like a reward system to mollify aggressive allies, irrespective of how efficiently or inefficiently the money is utilised at the state level. For example, despite abysmal performances in sectors like law and order, literacy and health, Uttar Pradesh had been rewarded by the UPA government for years.

On the other hand, even though West Bengal has been ranked first in terms of fully utilising the funds slated for 100-day work under MGNREGS, there has marked reluctance to monetarily compensate the state, and the full share of the amount has not been granted yet. Over, Rs 885 crore is still pending, as per investigation carried out by Millennium Post, which has also discovered how crores have been allowed to accrue as ‘parked funds’, having not been used for the purposes they had been sanctioned for. In fact, even though the idea to introduce core banking system to rectify this problem is being currently considered, it is not going to strike at the root of the malaise.

The real issue is obviously the general lack of political and bureaucratic will to put in place an efficient and transparent state apparatus, which comes down heavily on corruption and fraudulence of every kind. It is important to immediately put an end to the culture of monetary appeasement of non-performing but allied states through fund transfers and timely release of central grants, while punishing those states that are politically and ideologically opposed to the union government in terms of electoral arrangement, but have really worked hard to improve the system.
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