MGNREGS gets mixed review from World Bank

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New Delhi: The government’s flagship rural job guarantee scheme is innovative and has achieved quite high coverage but faces challenges like uneven implementation across states and “some evidence” of leakage of funds, a new World Bank report says.

The study ‘Social Protection for a Changing India’ also says ensuring higher degree of awareness among people about the process of applying for work under the scheme and a strong monitoring and evaluation system will help in more successful implementation of the programme.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has significantly higher coverage compared to previous public works programmes and “impressive inclusion” of scheduled castes (31 per cent), scheduled tribes (25 per cent) and women (50 per cent), it said, adding that MGNREGA serves as a model for future reforms in other safety net programmes.

But the report also pointed to “uneven implementation” of MGNREGA across States. While about 90 per cent rural households reaped benefits of the scheme in Rajasthan and the coverage was between 60 to 80 per cent in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the percentage was less than 20 per cent in States like Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Gujarat.

The report, the first comprehensive review of India’s anti-poverty initiatives which was started in 2004 after a request from the Planning Commission, used data from ministries, national sample surveys and World Bank studies.

It said there is “widespread unmet demand” for work and employment generated is still less than the 100-day guarantee.

“Localised studies also point to some evidence of leakage of funds and delay in fund transfers to panchayats,” World Bank lead economist of social protection, John Blomquist says.

According to the report, field studies report ways through which accountability mechanisms are being subverted, including through fudged muster rolls, misuse of job cards and account passbooks.

“In addition, the capacity of PRIs (Panchayati Raj Institutions) to conduct their intended functions is very weak,” it said. A range of functions – including planning, execution and monitoring – are expected to be performed by them but it is a difficult challenge, the report says.

It also pointed out that field studies indicate “poor adherence to transparency safeguards”.

“In practice, unavailable and fudged master rolls continue to be a serious issue. Job card entries are rarely made. In fact, job cards are not always in the possession of the household; instead the Sarpanch or other local official may hold it. The problems are exacerbated by low awareness of processes as well as high levels of illiteracy among MGNREG workers,” the report says.

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