• 14/06/2001

Nowhere does corruption in the administration have as disastrous consequences as in drought relief. A recent survey by the Rajasthan government shows that during the drought relief programme of 2000, a large amount of money was wasted due to corruption. Drought affected people didn't get 10-15 days of employment, though records showed them to have been employed for two months. In the case of Employment Guarantee Scheme of Maharashtra, the Legislature Review Committee, formed to review EGS, has several times recommended steps to check leakage. Corruption has almost marred the Employment Assurance Scheme (EAS), which leaves money in the hands of the bureaucracy, and the Jawahar Rozgar Yojana (JRY), which gives village councils the power to make work plans and implement them.

The Union ministry of rural development did an evaluation of poverty alleviation programmes in Bihar, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh. It found that the village council was never consulted for selection of work. In JRY and EAS, contractors executed works and the quality was below the mark, affecting the durability of the structures. "Under JRY a person got employment for less than 21 days during the last three years. Under the EAS, not a single person among the 600 families interviewed could get any work,' reads the report. From 1992 to 1999, Rs 34,500 crore was spent on JRY and EAS.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India found in its audit that the money was diverted to personal accounts and states were paying staff salaries from this. The CAG report of 1995 on EAS states that on an average each person was provided 18 and 16 days of employment during 1994-95 and 1995-96, respectively. Moreover, the new guidelines set for EAS by the Union government stipulate that the scheme will not fund any more watershed development activities. But, as the Planning Commission admits in its mid-term appraisal report, this is wrong as these lead to sustainable development of agriculture in poor areas, leading to creation of job opportunities in the farm sector on a permanent basis.

A defunct public distribution system (PDS) just adds to the crisis. "In most of the drought-affected states, the PDS, as it functions today, is virtually irrelevant as far as drought relief is concerned,' says Jean Dreze, professor with the Delhi School of Economics. The collapse of PDS is now cited as one of the reasons for the large-scale malnutrition death in Nasik division. Probably the largest foodgrain distribution machinery in the world with 4,00,000 outlets, PDS' collapse is alarming for the national economy.

The government's procurement has been going up despite a low grain production in comparison to population growth. It shows that rural consumption of foodgrain is plummeting. If the demand doesn't rise, the target of agricultural growth of 4.5 per cent might not be achieved, warn experts. A study of PDS by the Tata Economic Consultancy Services shows that at least 40 per cent of the foodgrain gets diverted. It is next to impossible for poor families to buy the allocated 20 kg of grain at one time. As they are not allowed to buy in instalments, PDS is more prone to leakage.

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