Ranchi, Feb. 4: A villager in Punjab wants 200 days of work under UPA's flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. In contrast, a villager in Jharkhand who has received the promised 100 days is among the creamiest league of the 0.5 per cent eligible for the MGNREGS jobs.
The state rural development department, which prepares the budget for the Centre and implements the scheme, has perfected the script of low ambition and lower performance. The numbers show that the rot runs deep.
In the past 10 months, only 20,321 people in Jharkhand have received the promised 100 days of work under MGNREGS, 0.5 per cent of the 40.40 lakh families holding job cards. The abysmal figure is far less than the corresponding number in 2011-12 fiscal ' 28,736.
If the state had to offer 100 days of employment to even a respectable three-fourths of the total 40.40 lakh households with job cards, it would have needed Rs 6,000 crore. Instead, Jharkhand had just Rs 1,638 crore for the fiscal and utilised Rs 750 crore ' less than half ' 10 months down.
"This year's expenditure outlay is poorer than even that of last year in the corresponding period. Last year, till January, the state government had spent Rs 775 crore in 10 months and had also given 28,763 households the mandatory 100 days of work," said MGNREGS worker Gurjit Singh.
Of Jharkhand's 40.40 lakh families eligible for jobs under MGNREGS, 11.67 lakh have been provided jobs by January-end. Not much would change in the less than two months left for the fiscal. Going by the rate of progress, which is around Rs 75 crore spent per month, the state government can use another Rs 150 crore, February and March inclusive.
A greater contrast to states such as Punjab can't be imagined.
Last week, the Union government hosted a meet in New Delhi to discuss MGNREGS where women from Punjab demanded the 100-day cap be doubled before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. It spoke volumes about the kind of strides the national job scheme had made in the state's hinterland since 2005.
In Jharkhand, since the scheme was implemented, it has been limping. That is the unanimous opinion of MGNREGS workers across the state.
"Due to the low budget, the state loses out at least Rs 5,000 crore annually. From 2005, the state has missed out as much as Rs 35,000 crore, not to mention countless families who have lost job opportunities," Singh pointed out.
Balram, another MGNREGS social worker, flatly blamed "lack of political will" to properly implement the job scheme. "Bureaucrats don't appear interested. That's why we cut a sorry figure of 0.5 per cent households getting 100 days work," he added.
While state MGNREGS Commissioner Arun declined to speak, deputy secretary of the rural department (MGNREGS cell) Raj Mohan Tiwari said they were "trying hard".
"Look, the department is making lot of effort to perform well in the job scheme under the existing infrastructure conditions. Our expenditure will reach at least Rs 1,300-1,400 crore by the end of this fiscal," he said.
It means that the officials will spend as much money in February and March in the job scheme as they had in the past 10 months. It is a statement that merits serious reflection about the credibility of the national employment scheme in the state.
In 2009-10, then governor K. Sankarnarayanan had pulled up officials when he found out that the state had surrendered Rs 1,444 crore in the preceding three fiscals as it could not utilise the funds.
This time, perhaps it is time for governor Syed Ahmed to ask some tough questions.