SC pulls up states for non-implementation of welfare schemes

The Supreme Court on Monday came down heavily on certain states for not implementing welfare programmes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Act (MGNREGA), National Food Security and mid-day meal scheme, saying that despite painful legislation, these states look unconcerned.

Besides Gujarat, there are eight states and two union territories that have not implemented the social welfare legislation so far. Some states have not cared to issue ration cards even to the poor and the needy.

The apex court specifically cited the case of Gujarat and questioned why the state has not been implementing the law passed by Parliament as the centre did not name other states that have failed to implement the Act.

"What is Parliament doing? Is Gujarat not a part of India? The Act says it extends to whole of India and Gujarat is not implementing it. Tomorrow somebody can say that it is not going to implement the CrPC, IPC and the Evidence Act," a bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur said.

"You want to break away from India. Law was passed by Parliament but the state is not implementing the law. How can a state say that it won't implement the law. Tomorrow other states would say that it won't follow IPC, CrPC," a bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur told counsel appearing for Gujarat.

Appearing for Gujarat, Advocate Hemantika Wahai told the bench that the state was at the final stage of implementing the law and consultation was going on.

The bench also asked the Centre to collect and collate information from drought-hit states on the status of welfare schemes like MGNREGA, National Food Security and mid-day meal.

It asked the centre to file an affidavit by 10 February and posted the matter for further hearing two days thereafter.

The apex court had on January 18 asked the Centre to give information about implementation of schemes under MGNREGA, Food Security Act and the mid-day meal schemes as to whether those affected were being provided the minimum required employment and food or not.

The bench was hearing a PIL, which alleged that parts of states like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Chattisgarh have been hit by drought and the authorities were not providing adequate relief.

The PIL, filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan, run by persons like psephologist Yogendra Yadav, had sought implementation of the National Food Security Act which guarantees 5 kg of food grains per person per month. It also sought a direction to authorities that affected families be also given pulses and edible oils.

The plea had said that school-going children be also given milk and eggs under the mid-day meal scheme.

The centre, meanwhile, claimed that it has spent Rs3,13,844.55 crore on the MNGERA since it was started 10 years ago and that out of this 71 per cent has been spent on wage payments to workers.

Of the workers, the percentage of scheduled caste has consistently been about 20 per cent and scheduled tribes has been about 17 per cent. A total of 19,800 million man-days have been generated, out of which the percentage worked by women has steadily increased much above the statutory minimum of 33 per cent, a statement issued by the rural development ministry said.

Sustainable assets have been created linked to conservation of natural resources and overall development of gram panchayats. More than 65 per cent of the works taken up under the programme are linked to agriculture and allied activities.

The ministry said the year 2015-16 has seen a revival of the programme. The manday generation is the highest in the second quarter (458.8 million) and third quarter (461.0 million) than it has been in the last five years. The national man-day generation to date at 1,460 million is well above what this figure was at this time last year.