Bihar government has decided to cancel almost 60 per cent job cards issued under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) in a single stroke. It would affect more than 7.25 million people enrolled under this scheme.
The state government had issued more than 12.7 million job cards since 2006. According to the government, out of these job card holders only 5.5 million have done work at some point of time. The rest of the job cards were not used at all. The government on Monday decided to cancel them.
"This has been done to improve the efficiency and transparency under this scheme," says Nitish Mishra, Rural Development Minister of Bihar, "Ever since this scheme has been in effect, these people have not sought job even for a single day. There is no point having them in our muster roll. It also increases the chances of malpractices and corruption. Hence, we have to take this route."The government officials also state that the validity of these cards were over. "Job cards issued under MNREGS are valid for 5 years, The clean up was long overdue. Technically we have cancelled those job cards which are no longer active. The rest of the 5.5 million job cards owners would now be issued a new job card after the verification," says Amrit Lal Meena, Principle Secretary of the Rural Development Department.
The minister insists that this step does not mean that people, whose cards have been cancelled, cannot reapply new job cards. "If they want new job cards would be issued to them after proper verifications. This was to ensure transparency in this scheme. There have been several complains about this scheme in the state. It's physically impossible to check the details of all the MNREGS job cards. Therefore, we have cancelled those on which not even a single day's work has been sought."
Meanwhile the social activists have questioned the timing and reasons of this decision. "This is simply preposterous. There are several instances, where people were denied jobs. Now this step of the state government would prove as double penalisation for such people. They have to go through all the red tapes again and only middlemen and corrupt officials would be benefited by this step. Why have they cancelled these job cards in the middle of the peak season? We would challenge this decision in court," says Ashish Ranjan of Jan Jagaran Sangathan,
The state always had troublous relation with MNREGS. Several CAG reports have blasted the state government over poor implementation of this scheme. According to last year's report of the government's auditor points out that only 13 per cent of the job cards holders could actually get work under this employment generation scheme. It also states that the state government does not follow norms of work prioritisation, giving preference to lower priority works. It also points out that the state government had constantly failed fixing workdays and chalking out a clear strategy for defining work. This failure caused a loss of Rs 9,684 crore as central assistance in last fiscal year.