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MGNREGA-So far, many hopes
Recently, the Union Government rose the workdays under its flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act from 100 to 150 for tribals, a move that will benefit 14 lakh families. Jairam Ramesh, the Union Rural Development Minister declared that additional 50 workdays will be provided to those who have completed 100 days of work.

MGNREGA is one of the largest scale social safety net programmes that aims to enhance livelihood security of rural households for creating durable assets and discouraging migration. The enhancement of workdays will definitely contribute towards strengthening local economy but the centrality of this move is quite debatable as the Government is analysing the effectiveness of NREGA only in terms of increasing the wage payments provided and not concentrating on the development assets created.

Critical issues

Several governance issues persist which need to be addressed in order to streamline NREGA implementation. Issues relevant to job cards demand for job, choices of work and failure of timely payment has posed a challenge on MGNREGA. Even after years of its implementation, a large portion of beneficiaries do not know how to apply for a job card, how to create demand for work and what the other functional modalities are.

Even though the Act reveals that migration can be checked through implementation of the Act but it has not been realized in full sense. The process that is to be followed as enshrined in the Act is also not replicated in the villages and in worksites.

The recent announcement reveals that an additional 50 workdays would be provided only to those who have completed 100 workdays. But this would leave behind lakhs of tribal population as such they may have not completed 100 workdays.

For instance, as per the physical performance report of NREGA in Odisha (2013-14), the number of households completed 100 workdays is only 3.72% . It is even discouraging in tribal populated districts such as Ganjam (2.91%), Mayurbhanj (7.92%), Koraput (2.6%), Kandhamal (7.46%), Malkangiri (1.96%), Sundergarh (7.31%) and Nabarangpur (1.7 %), the percentage has not touched the double digit bar. These figures issue a structural enquiry into the performance of the Act; thus putting a challenge to the recent move.


District

Cumulative No. of HH issued jobcards (Till the reporting month)

Cumulative No. of HH demanded employment (Till the reporting month)

No. of HH working under NREGA during the reporting month

Cumulative No. of HH completed 100 days (Till the reporting month

No. of Disabled beneficiary individuals

SCs

STs

Others

Total





Ganjam

103185

26068

336044

465297

141789

57015

8775

213

Mayurbhanj

61479

245452

138163

445094

205383


93868

23108

424

puri

45633

1673

173879

221185

36313

804

128

12

balasore

59857

35256

231143

326256

50734

8839

764

178

Overall state performance

1203572

1807392

3414007

6424971

1793614


449819

88601

3079

Physical performance report of NREGA in Odisha (Source: www.nrega.nic.in)

The Act permits certain categories of work nature such as water conservation, drought proofing, irrigation, land development, rejuvenation of traditional water bodies, flood control and drainage work, rural connectivity and work on the land of SC/ST/BPL/IAY beneficiaries/land reform beneficiaries/ individual small and marginal farmers which are generic in nature and cannot serve immediate purpose of the people.

Cash for Work-A model for NREGA

The recent havoc of Phailin and its subsequent flood caused a heavy damage to the lives and properties of affected populations. Out of 21 affected districts, twelve districts were severely affected. Ganjam was the worst affected district by Phailin and Balasore, Bhadrak and Mayurbhanj districts were the majorly affected in the flood.

Unemployment was the immediate problem and many small businesses were destroyed. The immediate need for the affected populace was to feed their families. In order to cater to the immediate needs of the affected populace, the Government of Odisha raised the workdays to additional 50 days in cyclone affected districts but it was seen that in most of the affected village, NREGA was not being implemented.

Even though, it was in force, the work did not fulfill their immediate needs nor could it create a sustainable livelihood source to the populace. Thus, Cash for Work (CFW) was initiated in Ganjam, Puri, Mayurbhanj and Balasore by ActionAid led consortium which comprises Oxfam, Plan, Christian Aid and ADRA with the support from European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO). It aimed at providing a 50 days' work to the neediest households and trying further to link it with NREGA work so that people can get a total of 200 workdays this year.

The programme also focused its efforts to create a platform where ownership of productive resource to women, their participation and decision making at crucial junctures was ensured. Apart from that, the type of work such as individual house repairing, pond renovation is being taken in CFW which is scarcely been embraced in NREGA. The attraction towards NREGA will only happen if NREGA work surfaces with a creative touch and will be based upon the need of the local people.

While asked on its modalities, Debabrat Patra revealed, "NREGA work should start as soon as possible in the disaster affected villages as they need it the most. Also, the local administration should ensure them for 100 days of work so that they can avail the additional 50 workdays. The Cash For work can only provide wages for 50 days but then, NREGA is to be implemented."

The way forward

NREGA is such an Act where the role of Panchayat is crucial in terms of designing, planning and executing at least half of the total works. But the process involved is so clumsy and compound that deprives the panchayat to perform their roles properly. Their roles have just limited to act only as implementing agencies.

For the first time, NREGA came as a public wage programme where right of employment was ensured. If the Act had been implemented effectively, it would have a long-term impact in the lives of the people but it failed to deliver so. NREGA is not yet free from political caprices and corruption.

The ownership to beneficiary, process to bring transparency and accountability in its implementation and creation of durable assets for the community is the main objective behind the Act for which it was named as a revolutionary one. But NREGA confronts a daunting task: that of fulfilling its immense- and at times, proven- potential, without degenerating into another wage employment programme.

There is nothing wrong in the Act itself but the Government should come out with a revised guideline which will superintend its work and implementation. NREGA must catch up people's development imagination and focus on its development effectiveness rather than counting the wage payment. The real charm of its efficacy dwells in there.

(The author is a media and communication Officer in an International Anti-poverty organization and he can be contacted at nabamaster@gmail.com)

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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