The rural development ministry surreptitiously used an off the record WhatsApp chat group advising states to deny jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to the rural poor already reeling under an acute drought, the financial daily Business Standard has reported.
Photo credit: Business Standard
State officials were warned by the Union ministry that the “mad race” for giving jobs under MGNREGA could not continue. They were asked to “plan” more “judiciously” and bear in mind that the Centre would not make funds available any time soon.
This off the record communication is in gross violation of the provisions of MGNREGA which make it mandatory for the government to provide as much funds as are required for the work demanded by the rural poor. But, on the WhatsApp group, the government told states the idea that MGNREGA was demand-driven “did not cut much ice anymore”.
Repeated pleas through the same informal WhatsApp channel of state officials for immediate release of funds for works already completed fell on deaf ears. As a result the state governments were forced to deny jobs to the rural poor.
The chat group, titled ENCORE (Enabling Communication on Rural Employment), includes senior ministry officials and state-level MNREGA officials as its members. The ministry, however, told the Business Standard, that the chat group was “a convenience for follow-up and reminders as also for showcasing good work by states through uploading of pictures."
The full report published by Business Standard may be read here.