If reports as appearing in a section of the local media are to be believed, several crores of funds under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) have been siphoned off “under the DAN government”. Detailed charges have been put up by the Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC) against the large scale misuse of public fund under the MGNREGA by the present ‘DAN government”. The charges have been well substantiated by facts and figures. The present government particularly the Department of Rural Development has a lot to answer to the people of the State on the charges leveled by the Opposition Congress. Since the Budget Session is slated for the week ahead starting March 22, 2011, the MGNREGA fund misuse is certain to be raised in the Assembly and therefore the concerned authorities must clarify and respond to the charges. To begin with rather than engaging in false justification, the present government should plainly state as to whether the charges made by the NPCC is true or false. However it is quite unlikely that the government will ever admit to its failure. Rather at best it may engage in numerical arguments to further confuse the matter. Whatever may be the outcome of this debate, the coming budget session of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly is most likely to witness some stormy moments especially on the government’s financial position. Other than the budget figures, this session will probably witness a lot of numbers flying around.
Coming to the MGNREGA, this has been a major centrally sponsored scheme all across the country. Being an ambitious development programme with massive funding to the tune to several hundred crores of rupees for each State alone, it should not come as a surprise that wide spread corruption is taking place in the process of its implementation. Nagaland is no exception and reports about huge pilferage of public funds are a cause of concern. The biggest danger the MGNREGA faces is that the people it is meant to benefit will lose faith in it. Worse still one is disturbed by the criminal activity taking place in the name of MGNREGA. A few years back, the local media had widely reported about the robbery incident of MGNREGA funds amounting to several lakhs of rupees. As per the experience in other States across the country, it appears that the huge amount of fund available has led to a powerful nexus involving elected representatives, district officials, village level functionaries etc. What is at the same time of concern is the lack of participation of civil society in social audit of works done under the MGNREGA such as inspection of works, job cards, muster rolls and so on.
The MGNREGA is undoubtedly a path-breaking development initiative. However the manner, in which it has been implemented, though, has been unsatisfactory in many ways. Whether it is the problem in delay of wage payment, manipulation of the system by the corrupt, penalties on erring officers must be imposed. Necessary deterrence must be enforced if MGNREGA is to improve along with ensuring that social audit is conducted so that implementing authorities remain accountable to the people. As a Christian State can Nagaland become a role model of honesty and integrity? With generous funds available for developing our State we must ensure proper utilization of what we get. There is obviously a need for transparency and accountability in MGNREGA implementation. Can Christian Nagaland show the way? Most probably not, given our superficial belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.