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Posted at: Jul 11, 2019, 6:52 AM; last updated: Jul 11, 2019, 2:18 PM (IST)

Punjab officials pocket Central funds granted for rural poor

Punjab officials pocket Central funds granted for rural poor

Aman Sood
Tribune News Service
Patiala, July 10

Centre-sponsored Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) funds, meant for the poor farmers of Punjab, were siphoned off by some sarpanches and panchayat members in connivance with panchayat department officials, thereby adversely affecting the scheme’s success in the state.

The scheme generated only 20.23 average days of employment a year in the state, against the mandated 100 days, claims a recent study.

According to the study published in the Indian Journal of Economics and Development, only 1.64 per cent beneficiary households got the mandated 100-day employment; while 21.29 per cent got no work.

In certain cases, sarpanches, in connivance with block development officials, pocketed Rs 20 to Rs 60 in respect of every job card issued under the scheme.

The Empirical Analysis of Implementation of MGNREGS across Different Social Groups in Punjab by Punjabi University, Patiala, was sponsored by the University Grants Commission (UGC). It was conducted in 65 villages of 22 districts of Punjab.

Gian Singh, one of the researchers, said, “Only 19.1 per cent of overall beneficiary households received their job cards within the stipulated 15-day period… In many cases, the cards were made in the names of big farmers and landowners.”

“In 40.83 per cent cases, panchayat members and secretaries kept job cards with themselves. Meanwhile, 80.57 per cent of overall beneficiaries reported that their job cards were not filled. The average income every household earned stood at Rs 3,722.78 per month, but the actual wage received without any delay was Rs 1,291.96 per month,” the study states.

Only 14.98 per cent beneficiaries received their payments within stipulated 15 days, while 19.69 per cent received money after three months. The researchers blamed the delay on shortage of staff.

“The field work was carried out in 2012-13, but the study is relevant even today because the days of employment are still almost the same,” he said. 

“Majority of the workers are illiterate and do not know much about their rights so they are generally exploited by panchayat members,” says the study, co-authored by Balwinder Singh and Sarabjeet Singh, professors at Punjabi University. Cabinet Minister for Panchayats Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa said: “We will look into the report and ensure that the flaws  are removed. Efforts are being made to check such practices.”


MODUS OPERANDI

  • Beneficiaries had to pay Rs 20-Rs 60 to get a job card; in many cases these were made in the name of big farmers and landowners
  • Most seeking work under MGNREG scheme were illiterate and exploited by panchayat members
48.03 % of beneficiaries said panchayat members brought muster roll to work site for attendance, payments
19.10% of beneficiary households got their job cards within the stipulated 15-day period
21.29% applicants got work within 15 days and not a single beneficiary household was given unemployment allowance

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