Govt turns to civil society on MGNREGS

With efficacy of its flagship rural job scheme being questioned, the Congress-led UPA government has once again turned to the civil society and roped in eminent social and development activists to help it salvage the programme.

The Ministry of Rural Development constituted a 14-member programme advisory group to help it implement the new incarnation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

The committee comprises Aruna Roy and Deep Joshi, both members of Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC), which had midwifed the scheme in 2004-05.

It also included noted economist Jean Dreze, who was then a member of the NAC and played a key role in conceptualising the scheme.

According to an Office Memorandum issued by the MoRD last week, the newly constituted advisory panel would help the government put into operation the new guidelines for the MGNREGS. The new panel would provide support to the state governments for effective implementation of the programme, it added.

The NAC — an interface of the UPA government with the civil society — was instrumental in giving shape to the MGNREG Act during the ruling coalition’s first tenure in power.

Roy and Dreze were among the panel’s members, who played a key role in giving shape to the legislation that was aimed at enhancing livelihood security of rural population by providing up to 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

Dreze last year quit the NAC, while Roy continues to be the convener of the panel’s working group on transparency and accountability in governance.

Though the MGNREGS helped the Congress-led coalition retain power in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the scheme has been mired in controversies -- particularly due to alleged irregularities, misappropriation of funds and corruption as well as quality of assets created in addition. The scheme has also been blamed for shortage of agricultural labourers.

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