The Ministry of Rural Development has clarified that the creation of ‘durable assets’ is also an ‘important objective’ of the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee scheme, after the scheme was severely criticised for not paying enough attention towards creating durable assets and completing the works taken up.
The flagship job guarantee scheme of the ministry promises a hundred days of manual labour to each rural household every year at a minimum wage.
In a circular dated August 5, the ministry, which oversees the scheme, said, “It needs to be reiterated that while the main purpose of the programme is to provide unskilled work on demand, the creation of durable assets is also an important objective of the scheme under the programme, and completing incomplete works has to take priority over starting new works in the local area.”
The circular also clarifies that the gram sabha has the power to determine the order of priority only in case of new works and that completing old works remains most important. This clarification comes in the backdrop of confusion over the powers of the state administration to compel the gram sabha to finish existing works. Some state governments had demanded a clarification on whether the gram panchayat can be asked to first complete works, since according to the Act, it is the panchayats which have the power to determine order of priority.
The scheme, which was to a great extent responsible for bringing the Congress back to power in 2009, has been increasingly criticised for the poor quality of assets created under it, as well as for the huge piling-up of incomplete works. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India, in its report earlier this year, found that only 30 per cent of the over 129 lakh works amounting to Rs 1.26 lakh crore were actually completed during the audit period (April 2007 to March 2012), which the report said indicates “significant inefficiencies in the implementation of annual plans”.
It had said works of around Rs 2,250 crore that were undertaken were not permissible under the scheme. 7,69,575 works amounting to Rs 4,070 crore were incomplete even after one to five years and expenditure of around Rs 6,500 crore on works did not result in the creation of any durable assets.