Friday, December 3, 2010

Grassroots audits of government programs benefit rural poor in India

Lydia Polgreen reports in today's New York Times on a program in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh that permits beneficiaries of government programs to audit them. Indeed, the law was written to require the "social audits," under which "villagers scour the records and look for fraud." Polgreen calls this "an experiment in grassroots democracy in rural India aimed at ensuring that the benefits of government programs for the poor actually go to the poor." Her story makes several other references to India's rural poor, including this one:
With the Indian government planning to spend a quarter of a trillion dollars to help the rural poor over the next five years, such audits will be crucial to reducing waste and fraud.
Much of that cash will go to a program created in 2005 to provide people in the countryside with 100 days of work at minimum wage on small-scale village infrastructure projects. This year, the government has budgeted $9 billion for the program, potentially ripe pickings for corrupt businessmen, politicians and bureaucrats.

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