New Delhi, Sept. 18: The United Progressive Alliance government’s flagship social programme — the rural job scheme — is languishing seven months after its launch, with less than a third of the funds utilised.
Only three states — Punjab, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh — have spent more than half the money released under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in the current fiscal. The average utilisation across the country is just 29 per cent, a review by the rural development ministry shows.
The scheme is Sonia Gandhi’s pet project, meant to put a human face on a reforms-friendly government, and the Left swears by it. Yet many states ruled by the Congress or the CPM have been slow to implement it.
Punjab has done best, having used up 64 per cent of the money, while Tamil Nadu is at the bottom, having spent only 5 per cent. Left-ruled Bengal’s score is 14 per cent — less than half the national average.
Punjab is followed by National Democratic Alliance-ruled Orissa with 62 per cent and Andhra Pradesh with 52. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Tripura are the only other states to have spent more than the national average.
CPM member of Parliament Mohammad Salim blamed the tardy progress of the project in Bengal on the Assembly elections. He said that during the initial months after its February launch, the programme could not be implemented at the right pace because the model code of conduct was in force.
Apart from Tamil Nadu and Bengal, progress has been extremely slow in 11 states: Mizoram (7 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (12 per cent), Uttaranchal (13 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (18 per cent), Assam (18 per cent), Bihar (13 per cent), Nagaland (21 per cent), Jharkhand (22 per cent), Karnataka (23 per cent), Gujarat (26 per cent) and Haryana (26 per cent). Most of these states didn’t have polls between February and now.
Government sources said the scheme has generated nearly 2.7 million mandays in the current fiscal. Forty-two per cent of the beneficiaries are women.
The scheduled tribes and scheduled castes together make up two-thirds of the beneficiaries — 43 per cent of the jobs created have gone to the STs and 23 per cent to the SCs.