The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) was launched in all the districts of the country from April 1, 2008 -- two years ahead of schedule. This was announced by Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, Minister for Rural Development Programme, at a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday.
"In the first year (2006-2007), the scheme was implemented in 200 districts, in the next year it was extended to 130 more districts and in 2008-2009, we are including the remaining districts," he said.
Singh said that all those working under the scheme would now be paid by cheque and this would have to be deposited in the banks. "This would also encourage saving habits amongst those who are prone to spending money on liquor or tari," he said in a lighter tone.
Although Finance Minister P Chidambaram has earmarked Rs 49,000 crore (Rs 490 billion) for the scheme, Singh said that his scheme has the capacity to spend another Rs 20,000 crore (Rs 200 billion). "I am sure the finance minister would recall that shortage of funds would not be allowed to hit the NREGA," Singh said.
Talking about the non-implementation programme in certain areas, he said that over 165 complaints were received by his ministry. While some complaints were found to be baseless, FIRs were registered in the other cases. "We have asked the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) to go through the implementation of the scheme. We are seeking help even from NGOs and we would suitably reward those who do a good job," the minister said.
He pointed a finger at Bihar for poor implementation of the scheme. "It has not made job cards for even 50 per cent of the BPL families living in the state," Singh said.