Economic Times; Tuesday, April 12, 2011,
BHUBANESWAR: Bowing to pressures from civil society, NGOs , opposition parties, the Naveen Patnaik government finally gave its consent to a CBI probe into the alleged corruption in the utilization of central funds in the state for implementation of its rural job guarantee scheme under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
The Supreme Court was on Monday informed about this even as the allegation of misappropriation of hundreds of crores of rupees in food security and welfare schemes in the state by a recent survey report has brought fresh trouble for the Orissa Chief Minister.
Performance Audit of Food Security Schemes in Orissa conducted by New Delhi based research organization, Centre for Environment and Food Security exposes many chinks in the armour of Naveen Patnaik government. The report portrays a pathetic picture of the implementation of central schemes in seven districts where the former conducted sample survey.
In 2007, CEFS had alleged Rs 500 crore scam in the implementation of the MNREGS in Orissa and which has filed a petition on the issue urging for the CBI probe into the case. Even the reports from Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD) exposed misappropriation of funds to the tune of 88% in some districts of Orissa.
About 77% of the very poor in Orissa did not get even a single day's work under the rural employment scheme under The during the previous year. The average MGNREGS employment actually provided to the surveyed households in the state in last one year was only about 4 days per household, while only 2.2% of the sample households had got over 50 days job.
The MGNREGS, launched in 2006, guarantees 100 days of employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
"It is shocking to note that out of 2000 very poor households surveyed in Orissa , only 5 households had received 100 days of job during the previous year", the report lamented. The sample districts of Orissa included Bolangir, Nuapada, Kalahandi, Ganjam, Gajapati, Sundergarh and Kendujhar. The total number of sample households covered under this survey is 3250. About 53.4% of the sample households are scheduled caste and 46.6% are schedule tribes.
Interestingly, the survey disputes official claims best practices in the implementation of the rural jobs scheme in the home district of the chief minister, Naveen Patnaik. The report reveals that the yearly average employment per household in the district was less than half a day.
"The average actual NREGS employment provided to per needy and eligible household in Ganjam district during previous 12 months was less than half day (0.26 day to be precise)........It is a tragic irony that Ganjam district was declared by Orissa Government as the best practice district in NREGS and it has received best performing /model district award by the Central Government too". The report cited the plight of Biripurm, a village in Ganjam district.
In fact, Ganjam district was included in the survey to study and learn the MGNREGS best practices of the district so that they can be replicated in other districts. "However , we have sadly ended up discovering only worst MGNREGS practices in this so-called best practice district of Orissa", the report said.
Still shocking is the revelation that 28.3% of the sample households in the state do not have any ration card. Except for a couple of welfare schemes, the state fared very badly in the implementation of central schemes. For instance, there has been no impact of the National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS).
In case of death of the primary bread winner of a family, the NFBS provides a lump sum benefit of Rs 10,000 to the bereaved household. "This scheme is as good as non-existent. Hardly anyone knows about this scheme. It is shocking to note that only one household in Bolangir had received benefit under NMBS", the report said.
The report among others recommended launching of National Campaign to bring Transparency and Accountability in the delivery of all food security and social security schemes and implementation Section 4 of RTI to ensure pro-active disclosure of information related to all food security and social security schemes.