UPA flagship scheme reduced to a farce in Assam by the Tarun Gogoi government
By our Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, June 16: On February 2, 2006, the then Congress-led UPA government at the Centre launched a big bang social security scheme in 200 districts across the country under the tiol Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005. With the broad objective of guaranteeing the ‘right to work’ and achieve inclusive growth, the scheme was designed to ensure livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a fincial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
The fate of the scheme, later re-christened as the ‘Mahatma Gandhi tiol Rural Employment Guarantee Act’ (MGNREGA), became uncertain after the BJP stormed back to power at the Centre last year, but the rendra Modi government has pledged to continue the scheme with full funding. Surprisingly, the Congress government in Assam has been tardy in implementing this UPA flagship scheme, with the loss of momentum beginning in the days of the Manmohan Singh government.
Official figures with The Sentinel reveal the mockery to which MGNREGA has been reduced to in Assam. In 2006 when the scheme was launched, the State government created opportunities of 100 days work for over 2 lakh households. Since then, the backsliding has been rapid.
In the fincial year 2013-14, the Tarun Gogoi government maged to create 100 days work opportunity for only 15,505 households in total. Some backward districts simply failed to catch Dispur’s attention. Only 15 households in Kachar, 3 households in Karbi Anglong and just one household in Hailakandi got 100 days of work under MGNREGA.
The performance was considerably worse in the next fincial year 2014-15, with a total 10,464 households across the State maging to get 100 days of work under MGNREGA. Backward districts Hailakandi and Udalguri drew a complete blank, with not a single household in either of these two districts getting 100 days of work. Even better-off districts like Kamrup Metro and Sonitpur witnessed huge loss of momentum, with only eight households each from the two districts getting 100 days of work under MGNREGA. The figures were better for Karbi Anglong with 17 and Dhemaji with 18 households, but that offers little comfort.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi loses no opportunity to bash the rendra Modi for cutting funds for various Central schemes. But why did the MGNREGA scheme lose steam in 2013-14 itself, when the Congress was in power at the Centre? Surely, MGNREGA implementation in Assam must have received full and generous Central funding that year, yet the result was poor. The blame must be shouldered by the State Panchayat and Rural Development ministry, and overall by the Chief Minister himself.
Since its launching, MGNREGA in Assam has been bedeviled by a series of controversies and scams. Money was siphoned off through bogus job cards, while households close to local Congress leaders allegedly maged to get job cards. The total number of job card holders in Assam stands at 42.87 lakh, though only half or 21.44 lakh are said to be active.
Sadly, over half the projects under MGNREGA to create durable assets like roads, cals, ponds and wells, remain incomplete in Assam. This is how the Tarun Gogoi government is making a complete farce of a Congress social security scheme meant for providing a living to the desperately poor.