Broke Maharashtra to axe failed welfare schemes

May 28, 2014, 07:54 IST | Sharad Vyas

A state government resolution mandates that all populist programmes doling out needless freebies without proper formulation shall seize to exist by May 31, 2015

After spending thousands of crores of rupees on populist schemes to please voters, the state government has now decided to take a frugal approach. The state has decided to put a sunset clause to the various welfare doles that are not properly formulated, shelving all needless entitlements and schemes by the end of May 31, 2015.

mid-day’s investigations reveals the dismal condition of a residential school for tribal children in Nandurbar district. The school is part of the many welfare schemes by the state
mid-day’s investigations reveals the dismal condition of a residential school for tribal children in Nandurbar district. The school is part of the many welfare schemes by the state

The state’s latest resolution, which was passed earlier this month, could render as many as 300-odd welfare schemes across various departments irrelevant, such as social welfare, women and child, and tribal departments.

The state tribal development department alone runs 123 welfare schemes, spending a whopping Rs 2,800 crore on them every year. A latest government resolution announces the end of all welfare schemes in one year’s time, unless vetted by a high-power scrutiny committee of senior state officials.

The document reads: “All existing welfare schemes will seize to exist on their own by May 31, 2015. Beyond this, if the departments want to extend any scheme, it will have to scan them for consolidation and convergence, and establish with proof the relevance of a particular scheme.”

mid-day’s reports on the scam
mid-day’s reports on the scam

Maharashtra had, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, presented a revenue-deficit budget of R5,417 crore for the year 2014-15. While the government did not announce any populist schemes, the deficit was largely on account of subsidies and welfare programmes.

mid-day’s reports on the scam

The state’s public debt, too, has touched R3 lakh crore. “The budget is bloating only because politicians don’t care before announcing schemes after schemes as part of their poll gimmicks,” said a senior official of the state finance department.

Wasteful and corrupt
The state welfare programme has been pulled up for wasteful expenditure and allegations of corruption in its disbursement and implementation.

A slew of corruption cases in welfare schemes of various departments have taken the sting out of anti-poverty initiatives. It is believed that many schemes have become socially and economically irrelevant, but are continued, as the political class feels their cancellation would invite the voters’ ire.

The tribal department, for example, funds a scheme that disburses Rs 10,000 to any tribal couple participating in community mass weddings. But, at several places, this has led to increase in ‘dummy’ weddings. “Several men who are already married hide their background to participate in mass weddings based on fake certificates.

While this scheme was initially announced to reduce the practice of ‘give and take’, it is only leading to duplicate marriages in tribal areas,” tribal activist Milind Thatte told mid-day. Currently, the judiciary is hearing cases of graft in an alleged Rs 6,000-crore scam in disbursement of tribal schemes, misappropriation of funds in the irrigation and public works departments.

The circular says many of the schemes were not sustainable, did not have a basic template, and ignored proper identification of beneficiaries. “These schemes must have a deadline of five years, tracked on a regular basis in various phases of implementation, and vetted by a committee if their worth is over Rs 5 crore. Having a sunset clause will only remove inequities in implementation,” it reads.

Major schemes
Major schemes of women, tribal and social departments
>> Balika Samrudhi Yojna
>> Kamdhenu Yojna
>> Jijamata Mahila Adhar Vima Yojna
>> Indira Gandhi Matrutva Sahyog Yojna
>> Kishori Shakti Yojna
>> Thakkar Bappa Yojna
>> Ashram Shala Scheme
>> Ekalavya Residential School Scheme
>> Gharkul scheme
>> Khavati Scheme
>> Budit Majuri Yojna

Corruption in tribal welfare scheme
This paper had reported on May 19 that conniving government officials and greedy politicians had looted R150 crore in funds from tribal welfare schemes.

According to a study sanctioned by the Tribal Research and Training Institute, the corrupt officials forged documents, showed fake beneficiaries in some schemes while in other programmes, simply didn’t ensure that the welfare goods reached the intended people.

Of the 7.02 lakh beneficiaries claimed by the government in programmes that promised houses, seeds, schools and many other amenities for tribals, the study found that barely 8-12 per cent — varying across various schemes actually enjoyed the welfare products.

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