Case Study : Meghalaya CM COVID Relief Scheme failure – UPSC GS2

Case Study : Why transparency is needed in welfare schemes and Role of Civil Society in it.
  • CM of Meghalaya announced relief for workers affected by COVID 19 lockdown.
  • Announcement was made without necessary details about norms, eligibility etc.
  • People did not know whether their application for support had been successful or not.
  • Although payments were deposited into the bank accounts of the applicants, there were confusions about the amount of support they were supposed to get.
  • Some unions of the workers brought this to the attention of the government, but there was no response.
  • In October 2020, a local civil group filed an RTI application asking for the list of workers to whom payments had been made.
  • The response to the RTI was provided in December 2020 with details of around 1,60,000 people and transfers.
  • A Virtual Public Audit was conducted by Civil Society Organisations to verify beneficiaries by IVRS calls.
  • Only 13% beneficiaries actually received benefits.
  • A Public hearing was conducted  under chairmanship of Justice Madan B. Lokur, a former Judge of the Supreme Court of India. Justice Lokur asked the civil society groups to approach the Legal Services Authority to pursue and enforce mechanisms of grievance redress since the Department of Labour boycotted the hearing.
Implications of the proceedings:
  • The exercise has implications beyond Meghalaya. The Centre and various State governments have collected and spent thousands of crores, including the use of District Mineral Foundation Trust Funds, disaster relief funds, Compensatory Afforestation Management Funds Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) funds, etc. for “relief payments” with almost no information in the public domain.
  • Expenditures made by governments under various funds for COVID-19 relief have not been subject to either statutory audits of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India or institutionalised social audits, and necessary grievance redress platforms are absent.
Conclusion:
The demand for transparency and accountability by the marginalised groups need to be acknowledged and should be made part of all fund support and disbursement schemes in order to make democratic participation meaningful.
Note :  Case Study can be used in topics like Role of Civil Society, Social Audits, Transparency in Governance etc.