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Govt-welfare schemes: intended for poor but benefiting the rich

Uzma Saleem Malik

OP-ED |IK Columnist 

UZMA Saleem Malik

Rajiv Gandhi former prime minister of India said, “Out of one rupee spent by the government for welfare of downtrodden, only 15 paisa thereof actually reaches those persons for whom it is meant.”                

The Central, and the State governments proclaim new schemes and programs every year for the benefit of poor and marginalized section of society, but how many of these schemes reach the bottom of the pyramid, in reality, is a big question? How much of the amount stands disbursed? How many persons got benefitted by such schemes? How many people fall under the category of BPL according to the list prepared by the concerned committees? Whether the concerned officials disbursed the amount accordingly? The architect of modern India dreamed of a socialist pattern of society; Socialist means the system under which economic system is controlled and regulated by the government to ensure the welfare and equal access, of right and opportunities to all of its citizens. While taking utmost care of this constitutional consent, the central and the state governments have been implementing several schemes and programs for the poor and the marginalized section of the society to construct a just and equitable structure of the society which may help in bridging the gaps of inequality and injustice.

Still, a lot of such well-anticipated attempts are highly misdirected in the whole country, and Jammu and Kashmir is no exception. Despite various political and economic developments in the country, it has been observed that in the rural parts of the state, benefits of these developmental schemes and projects are being reaped primarily by the wealthy and upper-middle classes(fake beneficiaries), resulting in further multiplying the gap between rich and poor. An audit by the Government of India’s Rural Development Ministry came up with several loopholes in the implementation of one of the umbrella schemes, i.e., Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in Jammu and Kashmir. Like the rest of the country, the MGNREGA scheme was launched in the then state of Jammu and Kashmir (now UT) intended to uplift the rural economy and development by providing employment opportunities and by increasing the income of the poorer households. Therefore unlike the earlier wage and employment programs that were based on allocation, MGNREGA claims an ambitious outlook.MGNREGA goes beyond poverty alleviation and recognizes employment as a legal and indispensable right. The Act, guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

According to the report of National Level Monitoring (NLM) 2016-17, fiscal work was not provided within the stipulated time to the workers in 73 percent of the villages which got audited in the state. The report also suggested that Wage disbursal was delayed by “more than a month” in 72 percent of the screened villages of J&K. The report of NLM 2016-17, also pointed out the “there is a severe lack of adequate and passable efforts to create awareness and correct Information about various welfare schemes and programs that are specially designed for the poor and deprived section of the society, of which MGNREGA is one of the prominent examples of dodge and ambiguity in the state, especially in the most backward and neglected areas of the state of J&K (now UT). Since information and awareness are regarded as fundamental rights, every citizen of the country, rich, poor, educated, or ignorant, must know his or her prerogatives.The majority of the development programs and welfare schemes implemented by state and centre which are principally tapping the rural poor and the people belonging to the marginalized communities are performing despondently, due to various reasons of which the occurrence of corrupt practices by the high and mighty section of the society, substandard construction, fake job cards, delayed and fewer wages to the labourer, etc. are some of the principal concerns which are hampering the efficiency and the effectiveness of the scheme in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, the poor play least and a very insignificant role in the selection of the beneficiaries. It is a well-known fact that the majority of the rural-unfortunates lack education; they are illiterate, ignorant, and oblivious and unorganized, which leads toward the occurrence of a wide communication gap between local administration and the rural weaker section.

Therefore, In rural areas there is need to set up simple and accessible platforms at the district,  tehsil and block  level, that will help in providing secure, accurate and reliable pieces of Information regarding various schemes, their eligibility criteria, the application, and necessary documentation works, etc The NLM 2016-17 report also mentions  that one-third of the job-card holders in the state did not acquire the cards, the reports of fake beneficiaries and maintenance of muster rolls to misuse the funds, and the frequent payoffs to the middlemen and many other malpractices have also been reported regarding the working and implementation of MGNREGA program. However, there are several other central assisted schemes and plans being misdirected due to a lack of proper scrutiny and monitoring.The satisfaction of beneficiaries can be regarded as the most significant indicator of the success and failure of any scheme. If the recipients feel unsatisfied over different facets, then it is the prime duty of the administration to revisit the modalities and implementations of the projects to find the cause so that the corrective actions can be taken. The programs and schemes of the government, though designed most appropriately, failed desolately on the grassroots level due to several unforeseen factors that come into play, which directly or indirectly affect the implementation of these programs.

The data available Under MGNREGA suggests that 40,000 crores (Approx.) are spent annually in the country. If implemented efficiently and competently, it has the potential to transform the geography of poverty.  As in the then state of J&K MGNREGA scheme was launched to uplift the rural economy, it was also meant to build and construct the infrastructure for the agricultural sector, by creating the easily reached pathways to farmlands, drainage and irrigation facilities etc. On the other hand the scheme has failed miserably due to poor implementation strategies, mismanagement and frequent rise of corrupt practices.Therefore a capable and apparent management apparatus to supervise all the aspects and features of such extensive and multidimensional programs is inevitable. No doubt, the external monitoring of the program would be done sporadically. Still, the efficient implementation of the program has to rely principally on the internal staff for the actual delivery of quality.

Moreover, it also becomes a prime responsibility of each one of us to dampen the tendencies to get free out of the public money, i.e., the money meant for poor and needy. Furthermore, there is a need to scrutinize and monitor the access of undeserving people to such government schemes and programs. Besides that, there should be sufficient and adequate awareness about different projects and policies among the public, particularly about the purpose and the target beneficiaries of these programs. Moreover, the conception and establishment of such structure in the society is a prerequisite that encourages the contribution and involvement of rural poor in the process of execution of schemes with maximum intelligibility and credentials procedure. Otherwise, this illegal money laundering from a subsidized program like MGNREGA is digging an unfathomable puncture in the economic pocket of the UT and the entire country as well.

(Research scholar at Aligarh Muslim University and OPED writer  of daily  Inside Kashmir.   Author can be reached at [email protected])