SRES launched for administering MNREGS

Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma inaugurates the office of the State Rural Employment Society (SRES) at Simpli Building, in city, on Tuesday. (ST)

By Our Special Correspondent

 SHILLONG: To enable better implementation and monitoring of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the Department of Community and Rural Development (C&RD) has set up a dedicated implementation structure in the State Rural Employment Society (SRES).

Located at the former United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) this unit will focus on the implementation of the national flagship programme – MNREGS which was launched in 2007-08.

Speaking at the inaugural function, Minister for C&RD, Saleng Sangma said the absence of Management Information Systems (MIS), delay in data entry etc resulted in delayed reports and accurate information not being available. This in turn leads to delay in fund flows from Government of India. “This dedicated unit which will focus on better delivery of MNREGS and bring in greater professionalism,” Saleng Sangma said.

Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma, who officiated as chief guest at the function, expressed his delight that a “decision taken a few weeks back was moving ahead at great speed, not seen in the past.” Dr Sangma lauded the officers and staff of C&RD Department for their “dynamism and desire to serve.”

About the MNREGS, Dr Sangma said it is the largest economic stimulus in the world. “While the world witnessed economic meltdown India was already marching ahead with the idea of empowering the poor. The MNREGS has liberated people from the clutches of rich farmers who were exploiting their labour,” Dr Sangma asserted, adding that earlier the agricultural labourers were subject to wages paid according to whims and fancies of affluent farmers. The Chief Minister said now the rural masses have the option to turn to MNREGS for better wages which has in turn led to the hike in agricultural wages.

The Chief Minister, however, rued the fact that job card holders were not getting their wages on time. “How can poor people be made to wait for months to get their just wages? We have to ensure that their wages are directly transferred to individual accounts on a daily basis,” Dr Sangma said, adding that such needless delays have a negative impact on the willingness of people to participate in Government programmes. “We have to have better monitoring and evaluation strategies and use smart ideas and technologies to give an impetus to the programme,” said the Chief Minister, adding that this would require stability of leadership at various levels of governance.

Dr Sangma said there are 4 lakh registered job card holders in Meghalaya. Taking the family size of five, there are about 20 lakh people who are served by the MNREGS which is roughly two-thirds of Meghalaya or the entire rural populace. While the funds for the MNREGS stood at Rs 300 crore at present, the amount will scale up to Rs 500 crore shortly on account of better administration of the programme.

Pointing out that Meghalaya has adopted the best system in sofar as the setting up Village Employment Councils (VECs) and Area Employment Councils (AEC) are concerned as these institutions are free from partisan politics, the Chief Minister said, “In states with Panchayati Raj system, the mode of selection/appointment of VECs and AECs is highly political,” adding that the few hiccups that have surfaced in some areas can be tackled once the SRES begins functioning in right earnest.

Meanwhile, pointing at the importance of the SRES, the Chief Minister said this will become the convergence point for several departments which have key roles in rural development. The SERS will also provide continued capacity building for key officials and delivery agents of the MNREGS.

Earlier, Chief Secretary, Government of Meghalaya, WMS Pariat said one of the major constraints faced by the Department in implementing the scheme are the cumbersome procedures laid down by Government of India which resulted in delay in funds flow. “We hope to overcome this through the setting up of the SRES. There are huge numbers of people in rural areas both in the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors who will be better benefited by this dedicated structure”, Mr Pariat underlined.

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