New Delhi, Aug 22 : The Congress on Saturday slammed the Narendra Modi government over the reports of misappropriation of Rs 935 crore of funds of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) saying it reflects on the real intentions of the BJP and the government as it allowed and tacitly participated in the misappropriation of crores of tax-payers money which was meant for the poor.
Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said, “MGNREGA was introduced by the UPA Government to eradicate poverty from India, and the current regime through the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) referred to MGNREGA as a living monument to the failures of the Congress.” He said that MGNREGA became a life saver for the poor and marginalised during the first and the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Khera said that MGNREGA has come back to haunt the BJP government led by Narendra Modi today. “An expose in the media which accessed publicly available information through the Management Information System (MIS) of the Rural Development Ministry, reveals that Rs 935 crore were misappropriated in MGNREGA schemes over the last four years under the very nose of the Modi government,” the Congress leader said.
His remarks came a day after media reported that in the last four years Social Audit Units (SAU) under Rural Development Departments (RDD) across India have found financial misappropriation of Rs 935 crore under various schemes of the MGNREGA.
It also claimed that only about Rs 12.5 crore of this amount which is 1.34 per cent, has been recovered so far.
Khera said, “These numbers aren’t the numbers of any private agency or media channel, rather it is an outcome of the audits done by the SAU under the Rural Development Department of the Ministry of Rural Development.”
He said that the SAU carried out audits in 2.65 lakh gram panchayats across all states and union territories of India at least once between 2017-18 and 2020-21.
“The most significant finding by the SAU during their audits was that the primary type of misappropriation in most cases was financial misappropriation which includes and is not limited to bribery, payments to non-existent persons, to vendors at inflated procurement prices etc,” he said.
The Congress leader said this is significant, because this Act is a welfare scheme meant to ensure the welfare of the poor. “The very fact that misappropriations have been happening is a testament to the lack of accountability and due diligence by the Modi government. So much so, that the state with the highest misappropriation between 2017-18 and 2020-21 was the state of Tamil Nadu ruled by the ally of the Modi government, AIADMK,” he said.
He said that Tamil Nadu saw a misappropriation of Rs 245 crore. The state of Bihar also ruled by the BJP and JD(U) is among the top states with misappropriation to the tune of Rs 12.34 crore. Jharkhand which was ruled by the BJP as well during the audit timeline, saw misappropriation to the tune of Rs 51.29 crore.
He further said that before the government goes on the blame states, due diligence and ensuring audit was their responsibility and theirs only. “The fact that the government has been sleeping over it and has facilitated such large scale misappropriation even more so in the middle of a pandemic where MGNREGA could have been utilised to neutralise the reverse migration phenomenon and resulting economic distress and unemployment, that money went into financial misappropriation as explained earlier,” he said.
He also slammed the government for withdrawing the four per cent quota for differently abled persons in police forces and said, “This Government isn’t just anti-poor, this government is anti-people.”
“Unless, you can fund the electoral coffers of the BJP, the government would not bother about you,” Khera said further.
He also demanded that the government withdraw the notification that scrapped the 4 per cent quota for differently abled persons in police forces and undo this inhuman wrong.