If you’re heading to office, this news might just be a bad start to your day.
In yet another reflection of the state government’s apathetic attitude towards taxpayers’ money, minister of state for employment Gulabrao Deokar, on Thursday, admitted in the state legislative council that no projects have taken off and no employment has been provided to the rural jobless through the Maharashtra rural employment guarantee scheme (MREGS) since 2008. However, jobs have been provided under the Central government’s scheme.
If you are a salaried person, this means that the annual contribution you make to the state government in the form of professional tax — which is collected on the underlying promise that it will be used to fund employment schemes for the rural unemployed — has not been used for its designated purpose for the past three years.
At the end of March 2007, the consolidated figure for professional tax collected stood at Rs11,569.10 crore as revealed by state records.
“We take up schemes only under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). We have stopped carrying out projects under the state’s scheme from April 2008,” Deokar said.
Shiv Sena legislator Neelam Gorhe asked the government how they were utilising the tax money collected to fund the state’s scheme. “Has the scheme been shut down?” she then asked.
Dodging her initial question, industries and employment minister Narayan Rane insisted that the scheme is still ‘functioning’. “Projects are carried out in districts like Sindhudurg, but it is difficult to find people to work on them,” he said.
A senior government official overlooking the employment guarantee fund (EGF), made up of the professional tax collected from salaried persons, told the Hindustan Times that in 2008, then finance minister Jayant Patil moved an amendment where the tax collected under the EGF was diverted to the consolidated tax fund, so that the tax money could be used for other projects.
This move was undertaken, as under the MREGS the state would have to contribute funds to carry out projects but under the national scheme, similar works were funded by the Central government.