The best way to know the self is feeling oneself at the moments of reckoning. The feeling of being alone, just with your senses, may lead you to think more consciously. More and more of such moments may sensitize ‘you towards you’, towards others. We become regular with introspection and retrospection. We get ‘the’ gradual connect to the higher self we may name Spirituality or God or just a Humane Conscious. We tend to get a rhythm again in life. We need to learn the art of being lonely in crowd while being part of the crowd. A multitude of loneliness in mosaic of relations! One needs to feel it severally, with conscience, before making it a way of life. One needs to live several such lonely moments. One needs to live severallyalone.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

NOW COMES THE NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY BILL – CORRUPTION GETS SOME MORE AVENUES TO COVER?

The Union Cabinet today passed the National Food Security Bill. Intended to cover 67 per cent of the Indian population, the United Progressive Alliance is seeing it as one of the game-changer duo (direct cash transfer of subsidy being the other one) to help it win the next general elections that all say it has already lost.

Okay, that is an analysis in the future, but given the precedent set by two other (not counting many others here) flagship (populist) dole-outs by the UPA government, the Farm Debt Waiver (FDW) scheme and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee (MNREGA) that is also known as NREGA, this too, is going to be yet another hotbed of political and bureaucratic corruption.

The government is simply not apt to handle such mammoth projects. Given their scale involved covering a large section of the Indian population stretched across a vast geographical space, there has to be a complex monitoring procedure to regulate the desired flow of the resources.

But sought and implemented as populist dole-outs (though with bad economics), more emphasis was placed on giving customary statements and doing customized data-sheets showing the positive outcomes while suppressing or even killing the negatively worrying trends that let the people involved in the implementation of FDW and MNREGA embezzle thousands of billions in a country of a billion socioeconomically poorly managed lives.

Let see the how the FDW and the MNREGA have lost the track – what FDW and MNREGA began with and what became of FDW and MNREGA.


Farmers' Debt Waiver Scheme

Text (1) of the FM's statement (during the launch)
2008

As you are aware, this is the most ambitious debt waiver and debt relief scheme ever undertaken by any Government in India. Our initial estimates placed the number of beneficiaries as 3 crore small and marginal farmers and 1 crore 'other farmers'. As it terms out, the number of small and marginal farmers is more than 3 crore is estimated that the number is likely to be Rs. 3,69,00,000 and the number of other farmers is estimated about Rs. 59,75,000. These are of course unaudited figures. They are verified but they are yet unaudited figures. Initially, in the budget, it was estimated that the cost of the scheme will be about Rs. 60,000 crore to the Central Government. As it turns out, the cost of the scheme is likely to be in the order of about Rs. 71,680 crore, again unaudited. After audit, there may be some reduction.

To see what became of it, I quote from an article I wrote when the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) preliminary report on Farm Debt Waiver audit came out recently.

The CAG says on the sampling:

“Since debt relief and waiver mechanisms involved a huge amount, Performance Audit was undertaken to assess whether the management of claims for debt waiver and relief under the scheme was in accordance with relevant guidelines and requirements. The review, carried out from April 2011 to March 2012, covered 25 states involving field audit of a total of 90,576 beneficiaries’/farmers’ accounts in 715 branches of lending institutions situated in 92 districts. The sample included 80,299 accounts of such farmers who were extended benefit under the scheme, 9,334 accounts of such farmers who were not selected as beneficiaries even though they had received agricultural loans between 1 April 1997 to 31 March 2007 and 943 cases where complaints were received.”

Now that is a good enough size given the fact that this a preliminary report on the performance audit. When we see it in the historical perspective of the fund misappropriations in various government schemes including the MNREGA and NRHM, it only indicates for a bigger anomaly to surface say when the sample size is increased to 2 per cent of the universe of the covered 3.45 crore farmers (that would be a sample size of 6,90,000!) or who knows Mr. Pawar will ask for a 5 per cent sample size (with 17,25,000 cases!).

Sure, a more comprehensive report should and would follow and no matter what the sample size is, the country is going to see more dirt on the scam. UPA’s history of scams says the misappropriation level is only bound to go up.

Also, Mr. Pawar’s statement is fundamentally flawed. Even the audited 0.25 per cent of sample size (from a comprehensive number of 90,576 beneficiaries spread over 92 districts) establishes irregularities in the fund management of the farm debt waiver scheme and Mr. Pawar’s denial or any justification falls flat.

Now let’s come to another UPA drum-beater – the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Scheme

What the UPA government had proposed or (the tall and lofty claims):

THE NATIONAL RURAL EMPLOYMENT GUARANTEE ACT, 2005 (2)
No. 42 OF 2005 [5th September 2005]

An Act to provide for the enhancement of livelihood security of the households in rural areas of the  country  by providing  at least one hundred  days of guaranteed wage employment  in every financial  year to  every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work and for matters connected therewith  or incidental thereto.

A PIB release (3) on five-year assessment of MNREGA read: It has been five years since the launch of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) launch from Anantpur in Andhra Pradesh on February 2, 2006. The act has been instrumental in raising the productivity, increasing the purchasing power, reducing distress migration, creating durable assets while ensuring livelihood opportunities for the needy and poor in rural India.

The verbal manipulation continued to drumbeat the tall and lofty claims completely ignoring the reports about the widespread corruption.

Now see what became of MNREGA with some reports on MNREGA corruption:

2012: NREGA: Wages are often denied or delayed, with corruption rife (4) - In spite of NREGA work being measured, most workers are underpaid, with people having been paid as little as 1 per day (in Tonk, Rajasthan). Average wages paid across the country are well below the statutory minimum wage. Getting acknowledgements for work applications is very difficult, and the unemployment allowance is a pipe dream.

After being taken to one of the 6,38,365 villages in the country, this writer would like to extend a counter-invitation: not to show that the NREGA is working perfectly, but to show corruption, forged muster rolls, delayed wage payments, low wages and work sites appropriated by higher castes. But the desire would also be to introduce people, who in spite of all this, struggle and fight for the right to work.

2011: Indian rural welfare - Digging holes (5) - India's biggest single welfare project was launched in 2006 and costs over $8 billion a year. Alone, it eats up over 3% of all public spending, and officials say over 50m households last year got some benefit from it. Supporters say it has helped to lift rural wages—on average workers get about 120 rupees ($2.40) a day—which should mean falling poverty. But in many districts, especially poorer ones, huge amounts are stolen or wasted.

2010: 'Corruption mars implementation of NREGA' (6) - A government-sponsored study on NREGA has found large-scale corruption and irregularities in the implementation of the programme in several states with authorities in some areas "misappropriating" central funds and "threatening" workers to keep their mouth shut. The study, sponsored by Rural Development Ministry, was initiated in September 2008. The research team visited Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

2008: Dismal Experience of NREGA: Lessons for the Future (7)  

The CAG Report underlines the fact that the guidelines indicated in the NREGA have not been followed. The Report specifically mentions lack of provision of professional staff to implement the scheme.

All this resulted in a situation where out of 20.1 million households employed in the NREGA, only 2.2 million (that is, 10.5 per cent) received the full 100 days employment and wages as promised by the Act. The average employment per household was 43 days in 2006-07 and 35 days in 2007-08, as revealed by the Ministry of Rural Development.

Although the NREGA has provisions for transparency in the process of implementation, in actual practice, data on the work done and payments made for various kinds of jobs is kept as a closely guarded secret. As a consequence, there is a mockery of social audit. Even some of the fake NGOs are prepared to verify social audit by charging a ridiculously low fee per panchayat. As a result, the most radical provisions of the NREGA are violated with impunity.

A CAG report on MNREGA audit is awaited and is slated to be tabled in the Parliament. Be prepared. If we come across yet another CAG report on how the project was ill-managed costing a huge sum to the public exchequer, it wouldn’t be a surprise.

We have all the reasons, rooted in the recent history of the political and bureaucratic corruption that has surpassed GDPs of even many nations, to believe that the precious resources are again going to be wasted.

This is the irony of India – a rich country where majority of the world’s poor, and undernourished somehow manage to survive.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - http://severallyalone.blogspot.com/  

(1) Farmers' Debt Waiver scheme - Text of the FM's statement
(2) THE NATIONAL RURAL EMPLOYMENT GUARANTEE ACT, 2005
(3) Five Years of Mahatma Gandhi NREGA - 02-February, 2011
(4) The Economic Times, April 21, 2012
(5) The Economist – November 5, 2011
(6) Zee News, May 23, 2010
(7) Mainstream, April 12, 2008