New Delhi, April 18: The Centre has cited three shortcomings in the implementation of the rural job scheme in Bengal and linked the next instalment of grant to the resolution of the problems.
In a letter sent to chief minister Mamata Banerjee yesterday, Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has identified the critical areas as low completion rate of works, delay in e-transfer of wages and inadequate action on complaints of irregularities.
“Let me make it absolutely clear that funds are not a shortage for the West Bengal government as far as the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme) is concerned. The release of next instalment of central share to the state depends very critically on how it is able to spend the funds already available to it by successfully resolving the critical implementation issues,” Ramesh wrote in the letter.
Although Bengal will need the next tranche of funds only in October, the content of the letter crystallises a shift that was hinted at in an earlier missive sent last week. The rural development ministry headed by Ramesh has been treating the Bengal government as a priority case and the minister had personally called on the chief minister to discuss issues at a time Mamata had felt the Centre was not hearing out properly the concerns of her government.
Ramesh has now sought the immediate intervention of the chief minister to resolve the problems. The MGNREGA programme guarantees rural households 100 days of employment every financial year.
In response to a question from The Telegraph this evening, Bengal panchayat and rural development minister Subrata Mukherjee said he had submitted a report on the state’s job scheme performance to the chief minister.
“The chief minister has all the details and can convey that to Jairam Ramesh. In March alone, we had released Rs 982 crore under the scheme. I will ask Ramesh to name one state other than Bengal which has spent so much in a month,” Mukherjee said.
In the letter, Ramesh said the completion rate of works carried out under the scheme was low in the state. Once the works are over, completion certificates need to be issued on priority.
The letter said that although the Bengal government had decided to adopt an electronic funds management system (e-FMS) to transfer the wages to the accounts of the workers, its implementation was yet to be expedited. Ramesh said the state should roll out e-FMS in all the districts by end-March 2013.
Another issue that has been flagged is inadequate action on complaints received from public and elected representatives on the implementation of the programme. The state government should post a nodal officer to co-ordinate with the implementing agencies and ensure timely and adequate action on the pending complaints under the MGNREGA, the letter said.
Sources said the Bengal government takes about six months to one year to act on a complaint as against the ideal time of three months.
The minister has asked the state government to create a separate quality-monitoring cell to ensure the productivity and sustainability of assets created under the programme. Assets like ponds, wells, culverts and canals are created by using MGNREGA funds in rural areas.
The minister took care to point out that the Centre had not yet stopped the flow of funds. “Despite these implementation issues, we have released Rs 1,054 crore towards the first instalment of central share during the financial year 2012-13 to meet the state’s requirement for initial six months,” the letter said. In February this year, Ramesh had sanctioned Rs 1,011 crore for the first phase of drinking water supply project in Bankura district. Besides, the ministry has proposed to the finance ministry to approve funding of nearly Rs 3,000 crore for setting up of drinking water projects in districts of South 24-Parganas and Purulia.
It also proposes to give a special development package for the strife-torn Jungle Mahal area.
Ramesh had written another letter to Mamata last week about “extremely slow progress in the socio-economic and caste census” being carried out in the states to identify families below the poverty line.
Against the goal to complete the census by April 2012, the count has so far covered 18 per cent of the targeted households in Bengal.