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Is NREGS the antidote to poverty or vice versa?

Several VECs and AECs in trouble over funds misappropriation

By Our Reporter

 Shillong: There is no denying that the introduction of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in the state since 2006, has brought in some development in the rural areas but the same has become a curse for many villages.

The huge inflow of funds into the hands of the members of the Village Employment Councils (VEC) and Area Employment Councils (AEC) for the implementation of the MGNREGS has given rise to wanton corruption. In most cases the corrupt are members of the VECs and AECs.

According to available data, around 10 criminal cases has been filed in the Courts from February 2006 to December 2011 where money amounting to Rs 23.15 lakhs was misappropriated.

The latest case of anomalies in the implementation of this scheme which attracted the attention of many was at Mawryngkneng village, East Khasi Hills wherein an FIR was filed against the two members of the VEC by the State Rural Employment Society (SRES).

Talking to The Shillong Times, Commissioner and Secretary, Community and Rural Development (C & RD) KN Kumar informed that in Jaintia Hills alone in the period 2008-2011, Rs 4.69 lakhs was misappropriated and three FIRs were lodged against the persons involved in the misappropriation of funds.

However, Rs 2.89 lakhs was recovered and the remaining Rs 1.80 lakhs is yet to be retrieved as the person involved is absconding and police inquiry is still going on.

According to the data sent to the Rajya Sabha recently on misappropriation of funds and diversion of MGNREGS wages, in West Garo Hills, during the period 2006-2011, around Rs 15.07 lakhs was misappropriated and six criminal cases have been filed and all the misappropriated money was recovered. Meanwhile, in East Garo Hills, during the period 2008-2009, Rs 20,250 was misappropriated and the amount was refunded from the VEC. During the same year, Rs 63, 530 was siphoned off and accordingly, an FIR has been filed against the people concerned and the case is in progress.

In 2009-2010, Rs 2.55 lakhs was siphoned off but the amount misappropriated was refunded and deposited in the MGNREGA account.

Mr KN Kumar stated that this unprecedented corruption in the VECs and AECs is because the members are handling huge amounts of money which they are not used to. “At the end of the day, it is the decline of moral values in society”, Kumar observed.

The C & RD Commissioner further informed that with the setting up of the State Rural Employment Society in August this year which acts as a nodal agency to check anomalies in the implementation of this scheme, around five newspaper reports and two complaints were received. On one complaint the report is awaited from the district.

With the active participation of three Programme Managers of the SRES, many cases were being tapped and action accordingly taken. “The first FIR filed by the society was against the chairman and secretary of the Mawryngkneng VEC who were recently dropped as members by the villagers”, an SRES Programme Manager, Iaraphunlin Diengdoh said.

The department as well as the society is taking this matter very seriously and every reports and complaints against irregularities in the implementation of this scheme is tackled at the earliest stage, Kumar said.

“One way to ensure transparency in the implementation of this scheme and to limit corruption especially when it comes to placing a signature in the muster roll sheet is by installing the Biometric Monitoring System (BMS)”, the C & RD Commissioner stated.

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