The union ministry of rural development is investigating how
a major part of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Scheme (MNERGS) grant
was spent on buying toys for children of labourers instead of providing them
with adequate medical aid, water sheds and creches, in the district of Sultanpur
in Uttar Pradesh.

A three-member team sent to the district by the ministry confirmed
that a large chunk of MNREGS grant was spent on buying tricycles, plastic balls
and assorted toys to keep the children of labourers engaged on work sites.

Member of the Central Employment Guarantee Council (CEGC)
Sanjay Dixit, who blew the whistle, claimed that the expense could go well
beyond Rs 50 lakh.

Dixit claimed that three other districts – Basti,
Farrukhabad and Mainpuri – too have turned ‘children friendly’ and are spending
funds meant for creating jobs on buying toys. The trend, he said, was set after
Gonda showed the way. The district had created a record of sorts by showing
expenditure of one crore rupees on buying toys.

As per the much-abused sections 27/28 of the MNREG ACT, ‘work site facilities shall be ensured by implementing agencies such as
medical aid, drinking watersheds and creches’. The act allows setting up of creches
if there are more than five children under the age of six at a site, and also allows
appointment of a woman to manage the group. The provision is turning out to be
a goldmine for corrupt government functionaries.

Picture: Getty Images