Thursday, July 15, 2010


Flagship welfare programmes review by Govt. of India

It is gratifying to learn that the Ministry of Rural Development, Govt. of India is holding a Performance Review Committee meeting on July 16-17 to take stock of the progress of the various flagship programs.

The Govt. of India knows very well that the flagship programmes are not yielding the desired results in truly alleviating rural poverty and improving the life of the poorest of the poor. At best the benefits are spotty and hardly commensurate with the investment and efforts in monitoring. The funds are invariably utilised for unproductive purposes and are not genuinely creating assets of long term value to the community. The leakage of funds is said to be high.

On the contrary the flagship programmes are having a negative effect on the economy; agriculture and farm production and other labour intensive works are seriously hampered due to shortage of hands. Instead the Govt. would do well to revise these programmes to generate genuine employment opportunities to increase agriculture and farm production and productivity in labour intensive areas and prevent migration of labour from rural to urban centres.

India to review its flagship programmes

It will take stock of the progress made under different schemes aimed at improving infrastructure at grass root level

New Delhi: The Government of India will review the performance of its flagship programmes to ensure that thousands of crores being pumped into these schemes reach their intended beneficiaries.

The programmes to be reviewed on July 16-17 include Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), Swarna Jayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY), the preparations for BPL Census, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) and National Social Assistance Program.

The Ministry of Rural Development is holding a Performance Review Committee meeting to take stock of the progress under its various flagship programs on July 16-17 here.

Mahatma Gandhi NREGA led the way in the financial year 2009-10 with 5.25 crore households being provided employment in the rural areas across the country.

It has generated 282.58 lakh man days of employment in the year 2009-10.The average number of days of employment in the year per household in the year has gone up to 54 days.

The Ministry of Rural Development spent Rs 37938.16 crore on the scheme which amounts to 68 per cent of the expenditure as against the total available funds. Mahatma Gandhi NREGA provides for a legal guarantee of 100 days of work to job seeking adults from rural households doing unskilled manual labour.

This is the first meeting of the Performance Review Committee of the Ministry in the current financial year. The Performance Review Committee Meetings over the years have been an important monitoring tool for the Ministry of Rural Development to take stock of the progress of the various flagship programs running all over the country.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010


on NREGA implementation and its benfits

Passionate About India - Arindam Chaudhri blog.

June 25, 2010


When NREGA was launched in the year 2006, it was one of the biggest leaps taken by the UPA government to productively engage the underprivileged rural folk and connect them to the mainstream, a move which was due for long. From Rs 11,000 crores as the initial outlay, the same NREGA has grown to Rs 40,100 crores in the current year, encompassing each and every district of the country. Although a phenomenal initiative, from the very beginning, the NREGA has been marred with delivery bottlenecks. Like in most other cases, corruption this time too at every stage robbed the poor rural folk of their dues. The only consolation being that at least something is reaching them, compared to nothing in the past! But then, I recently came across this disturbing news! It has been reported that Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) sales have been going up as an aftereffect of the NREGA scheme. On hindsight, this was clearly predictable, but this was something that should have never happened in the first place! Predictable, because this is apparently a global phenomenon, that an immediate spurt in income disproportionately increases the propensity of consumption, and if it is backed with illiteracy and lack of awareness, the outcomes are even more hazardous, like we are seeing in our case! But then, what is most unfortunate is that a scheme which had the promise to transform the rural economy is actually pushing it to a bigger crisis! And if corrective actions are not taken on an immediate basis, we ourselves would be blamed for funding this nation into becoming a nation of alcoholics!

So when the government was all set to distribute around Rs 40,000 crores through NREGA, apart from ensuring that the money reaches the targeted population and does not get eaten up by the system, the government should have also ensured that there was a serious cap on the supply of alcohol in these regions. What happened was just the reverse. In fact, over the past few years, liquor outlets have on an average doubled in the rural areas. In Bihar, for example, the number of liquor outlets in the rural areas in the year 2006/07 was around 2800, which has gone up by more than 6000 currently. And this is all set to rise further as it is reported that the Excise and Prohibition Department is about to sanction one liquor vend in every three villages. It’s tragic that state governments don’t show a similar commitment for opening schools and health centres across each village. The bigger tragedy is that the per capita consumption of cereals is reducing every year, whereas that of liquor is increasing. The per capita consumption of cereals has fallen by almost two kg in the last decade. Bihar is not the only case in point, a similar growth in liquor supplies and consumption is being observed across the country. In Andhra Pradesh too, in a recent auction of around 6500 liquor vends, the rural areas put up the highest bids!

Reports also state that the liquor traders are very upbeat about the rural economy as various developmental schemes like the NREGA are enhancing the purchasing power within the rural populace, which has been driving up their sales. The government has also been extremely helpful in providing these liquor traders the reach without any concerns about the long term impact this is creating.

As I said earlier, the government should definitely put an immediate cap on the licensing of liquor outlets, particularly in rural India. This might also trigger the supply of illicit liquor and might even create an entire black economy around liquor. So the challenge to restrict consumption of alcohol and divert the new income towards consumption of cereals, saving, and into social investments like education for their children, is going to be a tall one, both for the Centre and the state governments!

One way to arrest this challenge is to issue the NREGA cards to the female member of the family rather than the male member. Globally, it has been observed that whenever income levels go up, women fare relatively better with respect to overall family welfare, as compared to their male counterparts. Even the famous Grameen Bank, which works on a micro-finance model and has had a huge success in transforming Bangladesh, hinges on this very premise that funding women with loans is any day a better bet than providing loans to men.

All in all, I would like to reiterate again that NREGA is a great developmental and transformational initiative. But then, successfully implementing the scheme across the nation is just half of the job done. The government also needs to ensure that the additional incomes generated by the rural folk are mobilized towards long term productive means. That would be the real challenge and transformation in the real sense!

My comments posted in the site:

NREGA should become a great developmental initiative. Instead it appears to be a damp squib as it is felt more as a dole distribution scheme in another name, not truly adding value to the local community in terms of creating long term assets for the over all economic development and prevention of migration. It is a big drain on the scarce resources of the Government and it may now be too late to reverse the damage done by NREGA as the rural poor cannot now imagine living without free money from NREGA, so much so the agriculture productivity has come down drastically. Please see the below links on the initiatives to streamline NREGA:

Villagers get digital identity - Biometric tracking gives a tamper proof identity to villagers

Bihar shows smart card way to cleaner rural job scheme -

NREGA going hi-tech in Bihar - Vidya Vishwanathan - Civil Society Online - June 2007

The 'BSC' of Identity - A Biometric Smart Card Device can be a fool-proof ID for citizens, says this ICT Consultant -

ID Cards get smarter -

4Ps Business and Marketing Magazine - A Plan Media Publication, New Delhi, India - Special Feature - COLUMN CITIZENRY - A prescription to end corruption - Unique identification of every citizen will help kill the corruption malaise in developing economies

Backward Bihar goes for the smartest cards - Times of India – April 04, 2010

Unique ID - Letters Column - Deccan Chronicle, Chennai - Monday, April 12, 2010.
There is no doubt that Unique ID can be the panacea for most evils of modern society, if implemented correctly. It can help the government to save crores of tax payers’ money year after year lost on account of leakages in the system. UIDAI should ensure compliance with International Data Security Standards and be vested with the responsibility of registering every citizen and resident in India and issuing Biometric Smart Card with multi modal biometrics (finger prints, iris, facial, palm vein and DNA). All transactions of all individuals and organizations must be mandated through the use of the Biometric Smart Card. This can help to plug all the loop holes in the system and ensure transparency and accountability.

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Sunday, July 04, 2010


Corruption pandemic

Letters column of Editorial page of Deccan Chronicle, Chennai, July 05, 2010


It has become a daily affair to read about high-level corruption among politicians, middlemen, godmen, businessmen, educationists, bureaucrats and elected representatives (CBI seals IAS official's house, July 4). It is a matter of grave concern that corruption has become the order of the day in almost all spheres of public activity. It makes one wonder if it is the present form of democracy which is responsible for such high levels of corruption? What is the answer to the problem of corruption? How do we eliminate the cancer of corruption from our society?

KRIS DEV Chennai

The article I had sent is as follows:

Corruption galore

It has almost become a daily event to read in the newspapers of high level corruption among politicians, middlemen, godmen, businessmen, educationists, bureaucrats, lower officials, elected representatives, professionals, etc. - "Raids don't spare politicos or godmen" and "CBI seals IAS official's house" - DC June 4, 2010.

It is a matter of grave concern among all well meaning citizens of the country that corruption is the order of the day in all most all public activities from birth to death nay from womb to tomb. It makes one to think, is it the present form of democracy that we follow, that is responsible for such high levels of corruption? Is it morally and physically feasible for the government to conduct raids objectively on all such cases of corruption apolitically, abureaucratically, etc?

If not what is the answer to the problem of corruption? How do we elemnate the cancer of corruption from our society? It has become a endemic problem, out to devour our democracy. Is it not high time, public debate is initiated at all levels of society for arriving at a consensus and a clear time bound action plan?
Kris Dev, Chennai

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