Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rs 1,000cr NREGS funds allowed to lapse


Ranchi, Sept. 12: Governor K. Sankaranarayanan has revealed that as much as Rs 1,000 crore had lapsed from funds meant for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in 2008-09 in Jharkhand, prompting the Centre’s think-tank behind the job scheme to dub the state’s implementation record as “poor”.

Calling the finding “unfortunate”, the governor today said the state could not afford to lose funds allocated for the welfare of the people. “Rs 1,000 crore lapsed in 2008-09. It is unfortunate because the funds are meant for people living in rural areas. This should not be repeated this time,” he said while addressing a state-level convergence workshop on NREGA held here in association with National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), a department of the Union rural development ministry that works as the brains trust of the UPA’s flagship job scheme.

The governor said deputy commissioners were the most important link to ensure the scheme’s proper implementation. He also asked them to ensure block development officers (BDOs) did not confine themselves to their headquarters.

This year, the governor noted, the state had been allocated over Rs 3,000 crore for NREGS. “Of this, Rs 2000 should be spent only in labourers’ wages. Do not allow this amount to lapse. Any lapse of this fund will not be tolerated, especially because of this year’s drought,” he told the gathering of DCs senior officials, including chief secretary Shiv Basant.

The funds lapse of 2008-09 isn’t surprising, given the political instability that has continued to rock the state ultimately leading to president’s rule.

“During 2008-09, the government could not generate jobs. And very often job applications were returned by the officers,” explained Balram, the state advisor to the Supreme Court commissioner on right to food.

Also, villagers felt discour- aged to work in NREGs due to delays in wage payments.

Today’s workshop, organised by the rural development department of the state, was attended by DCs, rural development secretary S.K. Satpathy and state NREGS commissioner Sunil Kumar Barnwal.

Advisor to the governor G Krishnan and NIRD director-general (DG) B.K Sinha, along with economist and NREGS architect Jean Dr├Ęze, were also present.

Sinha blamed Jharkhand’s “poor” performance in implementing NREGS to a weak administration.

“In the year 2008-09, the average mandays of NREGS in Jharkhand was 48. We get complaints about wage delays too,” Sinha said, adding that every job card holder was mandated to get 100 days work.