Guess how many jobs were created in the State under the Centre's flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the last two months. The answer is nil.
This shocking piece of information was revealed by the State Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (RDPR) department officials at a meeting of deputy commissioners (DCs) and chief executive officers (CEOs) of Zilla Panchayats (ZP), chaired by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, on Monday.
The meeting which started at 10.30 am at Vidhana Soudha went on till 8 pm. Besides taking stock of the drinking water situation, the chief minister reviewed the progress of Revenue and RDPR departments. Almost all ministers were present in the meeting, which will continue on Tuesday.
Monday's meeting revealed the mismanagement of funds under the Act and total lack of coordination among officials. In fact, the RDPR officials and CEOs indulged in bitter argument on the issue of availability and utilisation of funds.
For instance, the chief executive officer of the Tumkur ZP said there was no money available with the panchayat under the Act, while the department officials claimed that the panchayat had Rs 50 crore in its bank account.
Tumkur district incharge minister T B Jayachandra said all was not well under the MGNREGA.
CM lashes out
Upset with the revelation, Siddaramaiah took the CEO to task and warned that he would initiate stringent action if they (CEOs) refused to cooperate in implementing the Act.
“By looking at your (CEOs) faces, I can make out you have done nothing. I will not tolerate this. The CEOs should give top priority for implementing the Act,” he stated.
The very purpose of the Act has been defeated in the State, he said. People who have been deprived employment under the Act have the right to file a case against the officials.
“Recently, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh told me that Karnataka is lagging behind other states in implementing the Act. But, I was not aware that things are so bad,” he said.
Earlier, in his opening remarks, Siddaramaiah said the people had voted the Congress to power believing that the new government would give a clean, transparent, people-friendly, corruption-free administration.
“To live up to the expectations of the people, it is important that the mindset of the officials changes. It is the responsibility of the district officials to ensure that the programmes and policies of the government reach the people’s doorsteps,” he said.
He pointed out that lapses in programme delivery or implementation would result in people running from pillar to post or visiting the district headquarters and Bangalore to get their work done.
“This government will not tolerate inefficiency or carelessness. Stringent action will be initiated against officials who do not respond to the needs of the people,” Siddaramaiah said.