“Yet, in spite of its massive public spending budget, NREGA has come under withering criticism, starting with allegations of corruption in several states.
In northern Uttar Pradesh, massive siphoning of NREGA funds by officials and local administration, including village panchayat heads, has now led to the minister for rural development, Jairam Ramesh, calling for an official inquiry.
The largest of the NREGA scams in Uttar Pradesh emerged from the constituency of Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the ruling Congress party. Not surprisingly, the Congress party fared badly in provincial elections held in the state, India’s largest, in March 2012.
Critics say NREGA’s massive public expenditure is a drain on India’s economy, besides affecting industry by pulling away its labour force and promoting a ‘welfare ethic’. “