Moral lesson for rural India
|OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT|
Guwahati, Feb. 12: Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh today took strong exception to corruption in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Act scheme and urged governments not to make the flagship programme a hotbed of corruption.
“NREGA is not a scheme to buy Boleros and Pajeros, it is to develop roads,” said Ramesh at a Gramonnayan Sammelan organised by the panchayat and rural development department in Guwahati today.
Though he did not specifically mention Assam, the remark has sent a reminder to the state that corruption under the job scheme will not be tolerated.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing 100 days of wage-employment in a financial year to a rural household.
A status report on the job scheme in Assam prepared by the ministry reveals that only 6.3 per cent work has been completed.
Of the 59,943 projects taken up, only 3,774 have been completed.
The minister said he has seen good work by gram panchayats under the job act and has asked women to report incidents of corruption.
A gram panchayat gets Rs 1 crore under the act.
The minister urged the authorities to guard against any lapse in monitoring.
He asked Assam to take up the challenge of turning 2,200 gram panchayats into nirmal (clean) gram panchayats in the next five years.
“There will not be any shortage of funds for the work. I am asking the Prime Minister to give top priority to rural sanitation and rural drinking water,” Ramesh said.
Of the 6 lakh villages in the country, only 25,000 are nirmal gram panchayats.
On panchayats, he said it has become stronger in the past 15 years but the states should provide more power.
“There are states who ask us for more power but they do not give more power to panchayats,” he said.
“If we believe in panchayats we must strengthen them and, in fact, they should become the first tier of democracy and not the third tier as it is now,” Ramesh said.
He said 11,000km of rural roads have been constructed in the last decade in Assam, which is good progress.
“We are trying to get smaller habitations connected by roads,” he said.
On self-help groups in Assam, Ramesh said more work would have to be done so that one sees a self-help group revolution.
There are 2.35 lakh self-help groups in Assam which is 10 per cent of the country’s self-help groups.
He praised chief minister Tarun Gogoi for ushering in a revolution in Assam in the past 11 years which has changed the face of the state and given a new direction.
“We are getting older but Gogoi is growing younger and we asked Gogoi the secret of his success,” Jairam said.
Gogoi said his government has given top priority to rural development.
In Assam, panchayat elections will be held by the year-end.