Ramesh unhappy over performance on MGNREGA

Bhubaneswar: Unhappy over Odisha`s performance in implementing MGNREGA, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh today asked the state government to sincerely utilise about Rs 5,000 crore central fund proposed for various rural schemes this year instead of complaining against the Centre.

"It is a matter of regret that Odisha put up a poor show in implementing MGNREGA. Its performance is at the bottom after Bihar and Jharkhand though programmes like MGNREGA is badly needed for poverty eradication," Ramesh told reporters here. The state was able to spend only Rs 1,000 crore last year under MGNREGA though it had a potential to utilise Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,000 crore per year, Ramesh said adding the programme showed positive impact in many states by checking distress migration, empowering women and tribals and helping farmers.

This year under MGNREGA, state was expected to get about Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 crore which was much below its potential in view of high demand and abject poverty, he said. Asserting that the Centre is ready to pump in funds and there is no dearth of money, Ramesh said Odisha was a state where CBI was probing alleged corruption in MGNREGA.

Stating that expenses for various rural development programmes would be thoroughly audited by CAG, he said Rs 99,000 crore would be spent on rural development, water supply and sanitation programmes this year and every rupee would be subject to strict auditing by CAG.

Every gram panchayat would go through compulsory certification by chartered accountant and all expenditure would be verified thoroughly, the minister said stressing the need for transparency and accountability in MGNREGA. Dubbing Odisha as the weakest among states in using money properly for poverty eradication, Ramesh said "I hope the state will give up criticising and complaining against the Centre and sincerely implement schemes like MGNREGA."

Refuting allegation of negligence by Centre, he said Rs 2,500 crore were allocated for construction of 6,000 km roads in Odisha last year under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), which was the highest in the country in view of backwardness and Naxal menace.

During the current fiscal also Odisha is expected to get funds to the tune of Rs 2,500 crore for construction of 6,000 km of rural roads, Ramesh said. Statistics show that funds have been flowing into Odisha liberally and there is no scope for the state government to complain against the Centre and accuse it of adopting a discriminatory approach, he said.

Referring to the Forest Rights Act, 2006, the union minister said during the last five years about three lakh individual titles and nearly 800 community titles had been given under the FRA in the state. The beneficiaries, who happen to be the poorest of the poor in the society, were fully entitled to Indira Awas Yojana (IAY), Ramesh said adding an initial amount of Rs 362 crore had already been sanctioned in 28 districts for one lakh beneficiaries. He said he had already conveyed this information to the chief minister.

Ramesh said he had also proposed to the union finance ministry and Planning Commission for making all beneficiaries of FRA entitled to IAY without any discrimination irrespective of their categorisation. In case of community forest rights in bamboo growing areas, control of transit pass-book should be transferred from forest department to gram sabhas in order to make them economically empowered, he said.