The government is working to tighten the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme as ''tremendous leakages'' have been noticed in the flagship rural jobs programme for the past two years, a top official said.
The Centre has allocated Rs 73,000 crore for 2022-23, which is 25 percent lower than the Rs 98,000 crore provided in the revised estimate (RE) for the current fiscal. The allocation for the next fiscal is same as was budget estimate (BE) for the current fiscal, which will end in March 2022.
The official said in the last two years, the RE has been higher than the BE significantly and it has been noticed that tremendous leakages are going on and middlemen are taking money for enrolling names of beneficiaries under the scheme.
''Direct Benefit Transfer has succeeded in reaching money directly to the person, but still there are human systems... . There are middlemen who are telling the people that I will put your name in the MGNREGA master roll, but you will have to withdraw cash and give me after you get the DBT transfer. It is happening in a big way," the official told PTI.
''It is a recent phenomenon in the last two years. So much money has flown that there is now a temptation to grab the money deceitfully. The Ministry of Rural Development will tighten it,'' he added.
Explaining the modus operandi, the official further said that the arrangement between the beneficiary and the middlemen is that since the beneficiary is giving some share to the middleman he would not even go for work and hence no work is taking place.
''The government has been very liberal in allocating MNREGA funds in the last two years. We put in Rs 1.11 lakh crore in 2020-21. It used to be Rs 35,000 crore in 2014-15," the official said.
During the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, when the scheme was ramped up and given its highest-ever budget of Rs 1.11 lakh crore, higher than the budget estimate of Rs 61,500 crore.
For the next financial year, the budget allocation is Rs 73,000 crore, while the revised estimates for the current fiscal pegs the expenditure at Rs 98,000 crore.
MGNREGA is aimed at enhancing livelihood security of households in rural areas of the country by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.