Raghuvansh Prasad, minister for rural development, on NREGA

Published: Saturday 15 September 2007

-- Union minister for rural development Raghuvansh Prasad Singh defends reports of irregularities in implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in a interview with Sandip Das
Problem areas in implementing NREGA We have to change the mindset of officials who have been in charge of rural development schemes since decades. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (nrega) is not merely a wage employment scheme. It has to provide long-term solutions to problems faced by the rural poor. Our focus is to create assets at village levels to obviate mass rural exodus.
On creating viable assets We have been asking states to take up works relating to water conservation on a priority basis.They have been asked to ensure that each drop of rainwater is conserved so that there is no water crisis at the village level and there is no large scale distress migration. Although migration has been contained to a large extent, there is a long way to go.
On asset maintenance Officials, panchayats and people associated with nrega implementation must be trained to maintain assets created under the act. We hope states will take up the issue of maintenance of structures created under nrega.
On assets not having local use We have asked panchayati raj institutions (pris) to identify specific needs of gram panchayats and then recommend works under nrega. But this is not happening. Ignorance is an important reason for grassroots planning not taking place according to objectives.
On corruption We have a zero tolerance policy towards corruption. Transparency is an integral part of nrega. We have the provision of public scrutiny of muster rolls. Many states have had nrega's implementation scrutinised by ngos and independent groups. It can even be monitored online. My ministry itself has appointed 180 independent monitors. There is also a provision for local-level independent vigilance committees. So I do not see any possibilities of large-scale irregularities in the implementation of the act.

On NREGA being a burden for panchayats We do admit that pris have lots in their hands and we look forward to working with the Union ministry of panchayati raj on this.

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