New Delhi: As the Congress attempts to better project its welfare programmes in the run-up to elections in seven states next year, union ministers will brief Congress chiefs from 16 states on some of the flagship schemes of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in order to clear their doubts and misconceptions.
The two-day meeting from Wednesday is aimed at "better monitoring of the welfare plans by educating the state leadership on the implementation of the various programmes", said Vilas Muttemwar, Congress general secretary in charge of the flagship programmes.
"This is the first time we have organised such a meet. This will help clear the doubts of the state leaders," Muttemwar told reporters.
About nine or 10 central ministers dealing with various social welfare programmes will give an update on the implementation of these schemes.
Amongst those who will attend the meet are Jairam Ramesh, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal and Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Minister Kumari Selja.
Congress leaders said the move to improve monitoring of these schemes in the states comes from the realisation that only a small fraction of the whopping Rs.80,000 crore being spent annually on various social welfare measures is actually reaching targeted beneficiaries. Of this, rural job plan MGNREGS alone has an annual budget of Rs.40,000 crore.
The inspiration for the move appears to have come from Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who has blamed Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati for widespread corruption in the implementation of flagship schemes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh had recently suggested to Mayawati that there should be a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into financial irregularities in the MGNREGS. Elections to the state assembly are due next year.
Gandhi had even called on elected office bearers of the Youth Congress to keep an eye on the implementation of the flagship schemes. Following this, state leaders sought more information on these programmes from the government.
Senior party leaders said the UPA government`s strategy is to pursue high economic growth so that substantial money is available for social welfare measures to pull millions out of poverty levels and improve rural infrastructure.
Besides MGNREGS and the NRHM, some other flagship programmes are the midday meal scheme, Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan, Indira Awas Yojna, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna, Integrated Child Development Services and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.
Elections are due next year in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Gujarat, Manipur, Himachal Pradesh and Goa.