Panchayats in the state have failed to utilise Rs 1.75 crore under the Goa Rural Employment Guarantee (GREG) Scheme meant for guaranteeing work to unskilled labour. After the Union government launched the NREG in 2006, the Goa government evolved its own project, GREG. Under GREG, an adult member is entitled to get work within 15 days if he applies for any.
Since the GREG scheme, conceived and fully funded by the Goa government, had identified works to be taken up in minor irrigation, water conservation, desilting of tanks, flood control, land development and rural roads, it reflected the seriousness of the government to meet the challenges of rural poverty. The government had allocated Rs 1 crore in 2006-07 and Rs 75 lakh in 2007-08 for the scheme. So the failure of the panchayats to implement the scheme is beyond comprehension.
If some panchayats did not find any unskilled labourers to be hired under the scheme in their respective areas, the sarpanchas could have informed the state government. But this did not happen. Instead they kept the funds with them idle. This is a kind of misuse of government fund, as the money was locked up. It is also a manifestation of lack of respect among panchayats and their functionaries for government rules and norms. It could also be a manifestation of their indifference to locating, informing and motivating potential beneficiaries of the scheme.
This once again reinforces the findings that panchayats have not performed in ways so as to deserve being known as the true face of rural development. The functionaries of the panchayats are so preoccupied with their vested interest and politicking – passing no-confidence motions – that they seldom find time to think of the common man. In the past few years, several reports on the functioning of panchayats in Goa have suggested that a number of panchayats and the officials who make the panchayats decision-making bodies, are deeply involved in patronising illegal constructions, going to the extent of violating CRZ norms.
Terribly, the indifference to the GREG Scheme has come as an irony at a time when the UPA government at the Centre has decided to extend NREG from the current mandate of 330 districts to cover the entire country. NREG would be launched in Goa on April 1. But with the panchayats in the state busy with their own agenda, how effective they would be in implementing the multicrore scheme is anybody’s guess.