Let our lunar leap not obliterate schemes for the poor going awry!

Our country took a giant leap to become the first country in the space domain with Chandrayaan-3’s lander module making a soft landing on the moon’s uncharted south pole. Up next is the Indian Space Research Organisation’s first spacecraft to survey the Sun on September 2.

Little doubt, the proud nation is in a celebratory mood. Apparently, what escaped the scrutiny of discerning media and public is the recent damning report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India casting aspersions on the implementation of some much touted schemes of the Union Government. The report has detected glaring irregularities and deficiencies in their implementation. The most bizarre is the finding of the report that about 7.5 lakh beneficiaries under the Ayushman Bharat scheme were linked to one mobile number, 9999999999. Also 1285 beneficiaries were linked to one Aadhaar number 000000000000! Under the same flagship scheme tabled in Parliament, Rs 6.97 crore was paid for the treatment of 3,446 patients who had earlier been shown as dead in the database of the same Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY).

Tehelka Cover Story “CAG Report: Flagship Schemes Red Flagged” by Mudit Mathur deciphers and dissects what went amiss with the schemes launched with fanfare for vulnerable sections covering around 55 crore people in the country. The CAG, which has been mandated to act as a watchdog, has also highlighted irregularities in other projects in its 12 audit reports which were tabled on the records of  Parliament as a part of constitutional requirement under Article 151 of the Constitution.

Alleged discrepancies were observed in some other schemes and projects too. For instance, the original construction cost of Dwarka Expressway was approved at Rs 18.20 crore per kilometre, but it skyrocketed to Rs 250.77 crore per kilometre. The CAG report has also highlighted diversion of about Rs 2.83 crore from the National Social Assistance Programme by the Ministry of Rural Development to promote other schemes. The report also unravelled alleged financial misallocations in six States amounting to Rs 57.45 crore.  It noticed that the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd caused a loss of Rs 159.23 crore due to faulty planning of projects while Bharat Electronics Limited incurred a loss of Rs 142 crore as the electronic circuit boards could not be indigenised.

Acting fast, the government has already de-empanelled 210 hospitals while licences of 188 others had been suspended for “non-compliance” with the guidelines issued by the National Health Authority (NHA). However, for the government which boasts of its commitment to eradicate corruption, there is a need to come clean on all the points red-flagged by the CAG.  There is an urgent need to prioritise the smooth functioning of welfare schemes without any taint. The audit findings underscore a need for a robust mechanism to safeguard public funds, and to bring in more transparency to ensure effective execution of public welfare schemes!