Friday, June 13, 2008

The criticality of auditing social programmes and violence

It is an established fact that a significant majority of money devoted to social programmes, such as the National Employment Guarantee, Anti-poverty programmes, targeted food subsidy, and many others, are heavily flawed in terms of the actual money that reach the poor. There have studies over the past, there have been admissions by the Government in the past (such as Rajiv Gandhi's famous statement made way back in 1985 about only 15% of the money reaching the intended). Money is siphoned off through middle-men, local politicians, workers, and the entrenched mafia. This has happened for a long time now, and it would seem that people have accepted this as a normal thing.
However, this should not be so. From time to time, the Government announces (mostly falsely) that there will be much greater inspection of the implementation to ensure that leakages are stopped. But more than the Government, there are social activists who are encouraging villages and the logical recipients of such aid to be more vigilant, to use laws such as RTI, and other measures such as social audits. Going against entrenched measures will lead to backlashes from those who stand to lose out their ill-gotten gains. Such is to be expected. However, it is the duty of the state to protect such audits and awareness, to provide all security measures, from policy statements by ministers at all levels and messaging through the arms of the state (babus, local politicians), and act strictly and firmly against people who seek to subvert such acts. But consider this article, and see whether the Government is doing things in the right manner:

The thousand-strong gathering at the Theological College grounds in Ranchi on June 10 had no doubts over why Lalit Mehta was killed. The 36-year-old engineer turned activist, had no personal enemies or battles. All he had done was access National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) expenditure records for researchers verifying official records against field data. On May 14, a day before the planned Social Audit of those works, he was brutally murdered.
The NREGA has provided an entitlement for the first time. The RTI has given a tool to uncover corrupt practices. The Social Audit is a mandatory process, under the NREGA Act, giving the people a chance to establish the truth and push for change. For the first time a corrupt mafia is threatened by a legally mandated process, which looks at details and places irrefutable documentary proof in the public domain. The corrupt nexus is reacting with pre-meditated, calculated violence.

If you read the article by Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey, this will leave you shaking in disbelief. There are incidents where the local administration (influenced no doubt by vested interests), is acting against people who are trying to create the awareness, and the Government, with all its statements for the 'aam admi', is standing still and refusing to take the measures that are subverting its own political campaigns. In the end, when people see corruption and do not see measures reaching them, they blame the political party. Does it not surprise the Congress that all these measures are not getting them political votes ?

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 11:20 PM