Move coincides with Rahul Gandhi's public relations campaign in poll-bound state
After a public spat with Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati over alleged misuse of funds released to the state for implementing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh sanctioned Rs 1,200 crore to the state on November 22. This is the third installment of funds sanctioned to state for the wage programme. Earlier, in May and July, the rural development ministry had released Rs 2,349 crore to Uttar Pradesh.
The wage programme has turned into a major political battle between the Bahujan Samaj Party=ruled Uttar Pradesh and the UPA-led Central government. Last week, there was a bitter exchange of letters between Mayawati and Ramesh. Ramesh alleged irregularities in implementing the scheme and demanded a CBI probe in his letter to the chief minister. In reply, Mayawati termed the allegations as misleading.
The fund release coincides with the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's much-hyped Jan Sampark Yatra in the state, launching the campaign for elections to the state assembly in 2012.
The press release of the rural development ministry reflects this feud. “The Union Ministry is acutely conscious that the people of the state should not be penalised for the failure of the state government to take credible action against those held responsible for financial irregularities,” says the press release.
National level monitors and state quality monitors for the wage programme had pointed out large-scale financial irregularities in Uttar Pradesh. After reminders from the ministry, the state government submitted an action taken report. The press release said the ministry found the report “wholly unsatisfactory”.
The ministry has now made release of next installment of fund conditional to a fresh promise by the state government to take action on all complaints on the wage programme by December 10. But the ministry will examine the action taken report for its veracity before taking a final decision post-December 10 promise.
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