An audit by the government of India’s Rural Development Ministry has found several loopholes in the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Act, guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment in a fiscal to every rural household whose adults opt for unskilled manual work, has J&K figuring in almost “all instances of negligence” in the last three fiscals.
As per the ministry’s National Level Monitoring (NLM) report, in 2016-17 fiscal, work was not provided within the stipulated time to the workers in 73 per cent of the villages audited in the state.
Wage disbursal, the NLM report said, was delayed by “more than a month” in 72 percent of the screened villages.
The report pointed out a “lack of adequate efforts to create awareness under MGNREGA” in J&K, while one-third of the job-card holders in the state did not actually possess the cards.
Many wage seekers in J&K, the report added, were not aware of the “provision of the acknowledgement receipt”.
“None of the wage seekers were aware of the entitlements about unemployment allowance in majority of the sample villages in Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab and Uttarakhand states,” read the report.
The J&K’s dismal performance continues simultaneously to hundreds of crores rupees given to it by the government of India each year.
As per the official figures, the state received over Rs 3,000 crore since 2013 including Rs 646.03 crore in 2017-18, Rs 756.26 crore in 2016-17, Rs 545.04 crore in 2015-16, Rs 404.56 crore in 2014-15, and Rs 672.53 crore in 2013-14.
As part of effective implementation of MGNREGA, J&K’s Rural Development Department was supposed to set up an independent Social Audit Unit (SAU), which is, however, yet to be constituted.
The team is supposed to “ensure that the appropriate action, including initiating criminal and civil proceedings or termination of services, is initiated against an individual or class of individuals or persons who miss-utilise or embezzle the amount meant for the schemes under the Act”.
Also, J&K is among the few states yet to appoint ombudsmen, who would have a suo moto authority to look into complaints under MGNREGA.
Commissioner Secretary J&K Rural Development Department, Nirmal Sharma, told The Kashmir Monitor that they have filed their report to the Government of India in response to the NLM report.
On setting up of SAU, she said that the department has prepared a Memorandum of Association and sent it to the Law Department for approval.
“Once they approve it, we will register SAU as a society. I understand that we cannot delay it each year. We have already appointed the district coordinators for the SAU,” she said.