Saturday, July 17

Business World presents story of jalpaiguri

Do you now that our government runs a program called Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (S G R Y) ? No. No problems you can atleast know now how it is screwed.

Businessworld reports about the The black hole of Jalpaiguri: (the last page of the article)
Miles away from Gudhiyarkuthi, in Delhi's Krishi Bhavan, the building housing the main office of the ministry of rural development, officials struggle with the fact that in 2003-04, Rs 264 crore was not used by the states to which the money was allocated by the Centre. "The problem is that, at the end of the year, when states don't use the funds they are allotted, this surplus money is allocated to other states. The problem is that the decision to allot the surpluses to another state is an essentially political one," says an officer. States like Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan are allotted the surpluses that other states will not spend.

Adds the officer: "Why should the surpluses be distributed to others? Not being able to use the funds reflects a failure of the bureaucracy in a state and in the districts. It's not that there is no poverty in those states." The officer points out that states like Punjab and Haryana are also allotted a large volume of foodgrains under the scheme. "This is absurd. Why do these states need the foodgrains when even the poor in these states buy directly from the market?"

The other problem is with the assets themselves that are created. Around 15 per cent of the funds are supposed to be for maintenance of the assets created in earlier years. "Unfortunately, we've found that not much of the money is used for maintenance," says the officer.

Ironically, even despite these problems, many believe that the Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojna is more successful than most other government schemes (See 'How The SGRY Works').

Will Manmohan Singh's proposals to transfer funds directly from the centre to the panchayats work? For all its faults, even in West Bengal where panchayati raj institutions are supposed to function more efficiently than in other states, village panchayats are the best institutions to judge how government money could be used in those areas. But they need to be made to work better. And one of the most important ways to do that is to put information in the hands of people like Kharen Roy.

Till that happens, Singh could spend all the money he wants - but the poor might still vote him out of power five years from now.