In the last year of its second term, the UPA government is banking big on the performance of its flagship schemes to woo the voters. While it is unlikely that the government will be able to increase the allocation for its flagship schemes in the upcoming budget, given the fiscal constraints, the implementation of the schemes on ground will be of utmost importance. The Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), a mega scheme that helped the UPA return to power in 2009, is performing well in patches. While poor people in a lot of states have benefited from the scheme, states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand are struggling to catch up with the rest of the country.
In the current year, the government has been able to provide 1,494 crore person-days of work days as against the target of 1,932 crore person-days. Interestingly, states with the maximum number of Below Poverty Line (BPL) people are the worst performers.
Analysis highlights that Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand account for the highest percentage of BPL population, these states also figure in the least amount of work provided in the country. While Bihar missed its target of providing employment by 57%, Madhya Pradesh missed its target by 46%, UP by 57% and Jharkhand 32%.
Under MNREGA, 90% of the funds come from Centre. While fund release is based on proposals of the states and the submission of a labour budget by them (estimating the anticipated demand for work). At least 50% of MNREGA works are to be executed by the gram panchayats.
MNREGA is the largest scheme run by the ministry of rural development and has been allocated 36% of the total budget for the ministry at Rs 33,000 crore for 2012-13
While the performance of the scheme has improved ever since it was started in 2005, the issue of delay in payments has persisted over these years.
According to the figures of MNREGA for 2012-2013, the national average in the percentage of payment delayed is over 22% — West Bengal topped the list with 47% payments being delayed, followed by Maharashtra, with 42 % delays in payment
According to research firm Accountability Initiative, the government had managed to spend 75% of its MNREGA funds in 2010-11. While Rajasthan spent 56% of the funds available, Bihar spent 84% of available funds. In total, 257 crore person-days of work was provided across the country in 2010-11.
The Centre has questioned the implementation of the scheme in Uttar Pradesh in the past, and it is evident from the report of Accountability Initiative. In 2010-11, Uttar Pradesh — which accounts for 20% of the country’s BPL population — generated 13% of the total MGNREGA employment provided, while Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, which together account for 8% of the country’s rural BPL households, provided 23% of total MNREGA employment.
Employment under the MNREGA by income category indicates that 40% of households accessing MNREGA fall within the low-income group, with a monthly income of up to Rs 657 while another 42% fall within the middle-income group with a monthly income up to Rs 1,058.