Govt sets out to curb graft in rural job plan

NEW DELHI: The Centre is set to focus the job guarantee scheme on villages in need of community assets and having a demand for labour-intensive jobs, a move aimed at checking the arbitrary flow of funds that is the main source of corruption.

Following rural development minister Gopinath Munde’s idea of linking MGNREGA to development of villages, the Centre is set to insist that all states submit “district-level development perspective plans” to back their proposals of ‘labour budgets’ about the mandays of jobs to be generated in a time-period. They decide the funds to be released by the Centre.

“The perspective plan for a district will be for five years with annual parameters and targets and MGNREGA works will flow from this,” rural development secretary L C Goyal told TOI.

It will be a radical change from the present system of “labour budgets” which is riddled with poor selection of works for lack of scientific assessment of needs and resources.

The perspective plans would ensure that there is demand of assets and money flows into creating them rather than the present system in which money reaches the villages and then works are ordered arbitrarily like ditch-digging to spend the funds. This, sources said, is the major source of corruption.

The proposal comes in the wake of the BJP government scotching speculation that it would discontinue the job scheme and instead stating that it would look to make it more productive. Sources said due diligence on the need of assets will automatically limit the scheme’s ambit and put the funds to better use.

With the growing possibility of a realistic assessment of the assets required, the villages would be forced to think beyond ditch-digging about genuine works like agriculture, thereby bringing about convergence with other activities.

Goyal said, “This will help the local economy with special focus on agriculture.”

The perspective plan could be the silver bullet to check misuse of funds under the job scheme. While the MGNREGA Act lays down the need for such plans to ensure creation of durable community assets, sources admitted that an attempt in the direction was made in 2008 but had to be shelved because of complications as well as non-cooperation from the states.

The move is likely to fructify under a BJP government because it has been critical of the misuse of MGNREGA funds and also is not handicapped by the compulsion to continue it as the scheme’s author Congress.