| Workers engaged under a rural scheme. File picture |
Shillong, Dec. 12: The idea of setting up a separate “cadre” of people with knowledge on rural issues under the community and rural development department in Meghalaya has been mooted and the State Planning Board has agreed to the same.
Meghalaya is virtually a land of villages. The community and rural development department has various rural schemes under its belt for implementation in the countryside. Some of these schemes include Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), a flagship programme.
Recently, the board held a meeting with officials of the department where ideas were floated on ways to amplify the department’s reach to villagers for whom most of the schemes are meant.
According to the board’s co-chairman John F. Kharshiing, one of the ideas which was mooted is the urgent need to constitute a separate “cadre” for the department that will comprise individuals with knowledge on rural affairs.
One of the issues that dominated the proceedings was the rural job scheme. The department said the MGNREGS budget for 2012-13 was around Rs 300 crore. Till date, there are about 4.75 lakh job-card holders and upto November this year, nearly three lakh people have been able to avail of job opportunities.
As part of the scheme, there are around 6,094 village employment councils (VECs) and 1,812 area employment councils (AECs) in the state.
Kharshiing said the question of non-payment of honorarium to office-bearers of AECs and VECs which was affecting the implementation of the rural job scheme had come up for deliberation.
“It was felt that allocation of around Rs 15 crore to Rs 20 crore should be set aside on an annual basis for honorarium to the office-bearers of AECs and VES. This will ensure effective administration of the scheme and enhance transparent implementation of the MGNREGS meant for the poor and the deprived. The board felt that the department might move the cabinet for consideration.”
Kharshiing said AECs and VECs officials have to travel to BDO offices without any allowance. While such officials in other parts of the country get honoraria, the same has not been done in Meghalaya, he said.
Since the implementation of the rural job schemes in Meghalaya in 2006, various anomalies have been detected, including misappropriation of funds by some AEC and VEC members.
Kharshiing said the board had decided to call for suggestions to further strengthen the delivery system of various schemes of the department. The board has also invited suggestions from members of the AECs and VECs. The suggestions will be forwarded to the government.
Meetings with AEC and VEC officials in all blocks will also be organised by the board.
The department, however, listed the challenges that come in the way of implementation of rural schemes. One of the primary challenges is that most officers are not engaged on a full-time basis, resulting in a weak monitoring system.
The issue of poor connectivity that affects communication and reporting and payment of wages through banks and post offices also pose challenges for effective implementation of schemes.
It was also said that the guidelines issued by the Centre on various schemes do not suit the local conditions while poor banking network and poor infrastructure add to the impediments.
It was made clear that AEC and VEC officials require capacity-building as they are not fully equipped with ideas on planning, implementation and monitoring of programmes.