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NREGA Implementation II - Birth Pangs in Bihar

What is holding back the government of Bihar from implementing the national rural employment guarantee scheme in the state? Like its predecessor, the present leadership of the state government too seems to be strong on rhetoric and weak in implementation.

NREGA IMPLEMENTATION – II

Birth Pangs in Bihar

What is holding back the government of Bihar from implementing the national rural employment guarantee scheme in the state? Like its predecessor, the present leadership of the state government too seems to be strong on rhetoric and weak in implementation.

PRAKASH LOUIS

I
t is more than a year since the NREGA came into effect and 10 months since the NREGS was formally launched. But in Bihar the scheme is yet to take off; it appears to be undergoing prolonged birth pangs. Out of the 200 districts that were selected for the first phase of implementation of this scheme, 23 are from Bihar. As far as the remaining 15 districts from Bihar that were originally listed, the Bihar government had promised to implement the scheme in these districts with the state’s own resources. Thus, 38 districts were to be covered under the NREGS in Bihar. The official announcements by the central and state governments generated considerable interest among the social activists, for after all, the potential was to be created for at least one person from each poor household in these districts of Bihar to be guaranteed employment for 100 days under the scheme, which if realised would to an extent help tide over the problem of food insecurity. What then is holding back the state government from implementing the NREGS?

It would be wrong to state that the Bihar government has not done anything with regard to implementing this scheme. The commissioner-cum-secretary of the rural development department of the Bihar government, in his letter dated January 18, 2006, had issued directives to the concerned authorities about the implementation of the NREGS in the 38 districts of Bihar, specifying that the unspent amount of Rs 5,025 lakh from the Sampurna Gramin Rozgar Yojna be utilised for implementing the NREGS in the 15 districts where the state government had promised to finance the scheme on its own. But, at the ground level, there has been practically nothing done till date. Yes, the chief minister distributed a few job cards at public functions and reiterated the resolve of his government to implement the scheme in all the districts of the state. The reality on the ground is however quite different. When people go to submit their application for an NREGA job card, the ‘mukhiya’ or the panchayat president sends them away saying that he has no orders to receive the application. This is the case in Barh block of Patna district. In Araria district, when development activists asked the block development officer (BDO) about the issue of NREGA job cards, he flatly refused saying that there is “no order from above about this”. There is no BDO for the last few months in Chennari block of Rohtas, where not only the NREGS is not taking off the ground, no other development work is underway.

According to the state government, there is no dearth of financial resources for implementing the scheme. In accordance with the implementation schedule, the central government released its share of the required expenditure in the month of April. As per the directives given by the national director of the NREGS datedApril 25, 2006, the amounts released for the implementation of the scheme in the districts chosen by the central government are as given in the table. As can be seen, Rs 405 crore has been released for implementation of the NREGS to be used by the government of Bihar. But for all practical purposes, implementation of the scheme is yet to begin. What is intriguing is that even eight months after the money has been released nothing has been done as yet. In fact, 60 per cent of the allotment is for making payment to the workers and 40 per cent of the amount is for the material component. Thus, over Rs 162 crore is available during the current financial year for the material component. Similarly, the bigger districts of Bihar have been granted about Rs 8 crore for the material component and Rs 12 crore for wages. What then is holding the state government, the politicians and the officials from implementing this scheme remains a mystery.

What do the politicians have to say about the implementation of the NREGS in Bihar? According to one of them, “the scheme was made operational from February 2006. But due to the moral code of conduct imposed during the panchayat elections in Bihar, this scheme could not be implemented. The election got over only in June and we were getting ready to implement the scheme but the rains came and no progress could be made. Now we are all set to implement the scheme and will make a formal announcement on October 2, Gandhi Jayanti Day.” But October has passed and nothing as yet is being done.

It is significant to note that even the State Employment Guarantee Council has not yet been constituted. Due to political wrangling, appointments to this council, which would have ensured the implementation of the scheme, have been delayed. Even the district programme officers and block programme officers have not been appointed, though there are resources available for this purpose.

Table: District-wise Allocation by the Union Government for NREGS in Bihar

(Rs lakh)

S No District Amount S No District Amount

1 Araria 1161.95 2 Vaishali 2000.00 3 Gaya 2000.00 4 Madhubani 2000.00 5 Muzaffarpur 2000.00 6 Nawada 1691.54 7 Samastipur 2000.00 8 Sheohar 1187.80 9 Katihar 2000.00 10 Jamui 1891.40 11 Lakhisarai 1147.27 12 Monghyr 2000.00

13 Purnea 995.85 14 Supaul 1987.23 15 Darbhanga 2000.00 16 Aurangabad 2000.00 17 Bhojpur 1816.90 18 Jehanabad 2000.00 19 Kaimur 1595.26 20 Nalanda 2000.00 21 Patna 2000.00 22 Rohtas 1991.70 23 Kishanganj 1036.48

Total Amount 40503.38

Source: Director, NREGA, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, New Delhi, April 25, 2006.

Economic and Political Weekly December 2, 2006

Government officials are of the view that only by April 2007 all the infrastructure and personnel would be put in place for this scheme. By then one year would have been wasted and the poor denied the relief they were promised.

It is unfortunate that Bihar has a tradition of non-implementation of development schemes, even those sponsored and supported by the union government. In the financial year 1998-99, only 31.94 per cent of the allotted amount of money for the integrated rural development programme was utilised. The present state finance minister stated in his budget speech that Rs 41.95 crore meant for the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Swarozgar Yojna (52.25 per cent of the total allotment for that programme for the year 2005-06) was unutilised. Like its predecessor, this government too seems to be strong on rhetoric and weak on implementation.

EPW

Email: prakashlouis@gmail.com

Economic and Political Weekly December 2, 2006

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