India's Rural Schemes – do they work??

Are the rural programs for development useful? Do they work? Rajiv Gandhi said only 15% of the money given out makes it to the poor. I remember once listening to an Indian economist who said that if the money given todate (that was 1987) for constructing hand pumps in Bihar had actually been used for the purpose, every inch of Bihar would have been covered by a hand pump!! The corruption in this area is endemic. CAPART, the government’s donor organization gives money to the NGOs for development projects…. you need to be a 3 year old registered NGO for that. And the money given by CAPART is almost free money! So, 3-yr old NGOs have been given in dowry in Bihar!!

Gucharan Das is a management guru and former chief executive based in Delhi.

A daily wage labourer in northern IndiaI sat with him in the garden of his home in an affluent Delhi suburb, his words interrupted by the piercing cries of the birds.

"We just do not have the delivery mechanisms," he said. "The thing everyone quotes is what Rajiv Gandhi once said: that only 15% reaches the poor."

He shook his head sadly. "But now there are people who doubt whether even 15% reaches the people it is intended to reach."

Mr Das is not the only person worried about implementation. One of the ironies is that India’s poorest states which need the scheme most are generally its worst governed too.

After talking to Mr Das, I travelled overnight to the heart of Uttar Pradesh, a vast state, India’s most populous and one of its poorest.

Here too the scheme was introduced at the start of February.

Our journey ended with a bumpy drive along a dirt track to a small, remote village called Kewti.

The non-government worker who took us there had called a meeting with the villagers to discuss the new employment law. But we arrived top find the village in uproar.

It seemed that a much-needed new road was being built but the government has appointed a local contractor to the work.

The contractor had brought in labour from the neighbouring state of Bihar. The villagers said if they had known their rights under new law, they would have insisted that they did the work instead.

Village elder Shyam Dher Mishra told me it was desperately needed: "There are so many unemployed people in the village," he said.

"People are really hungry. So the government should come here, let us do the work and the money could go from the government directly to us."

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