This article deals with ‘MNREGA.’ This is part of our series on ‘Governance’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here
- Government as an employer of the last resort is an idea that has existed since Great Depression in United States.
- However, MGNREGA takes this policy to a new realm because of its massive reach, universal nature, and its initiation during a period of rapid economic growth.
About Program (prelims)
- MGNREGA = Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (2005)
- Under Ministry of Rural Development
- Provides a legal guarantee for 100 days of employment to adult member of any rural household willing to do unskilled manual work
- It is demand driven scheme (not supply driven)
- Wages are to be paid according to the Minimum Wages Act 1948 for agricultural labourers . Equal wages will be provided to both men and women.
- 60:40 wage and material ratio has to be maintained ( labour-intensive nature of the scheme)
- Central Govt pays 100 percent wage cost of manual labour & 75 percent of the material cost
- Social Audit has to be done by the Gram Sabha (legal provision).
Achievements of MNREGA
- Revitalization of Rural Labour Markets : Poor workers have got bargaining power to demand higher wages .
- Women : Women are getting work as right leading to their emancipation (dealt separately).
- Sustainable Assets in water harvesting created especially in states like Bihar , Gujarat, Rajasthan etc . This also led to increase in agro productivity .
- Hundreds of bonded labour (Saheriya Adivasis) in Rajasthan freed from generations of bondage.
- MGNREGA has reduced distress migration.
- Has shown some unintended benefits => Banks account opened by poor workers because wages were paid through banks (Financial Inclusion).
- Empowering Gram Panchayats : act gave gram Sabhas the mandate to plan their own works and untied funds to execute these works. No other scheme has placed funds at this scale (Rs 15 lakh per year on average) directly with Gram Panchayats.
- MGNREGA has served as an important shock absorber for the rural economy by providing an important relief in times of distress eg distress situation created by drought .
- Corruption : workers not paid in full or forced to pay bribes to get jobs + ghost workers
- Poor Quality Infrastructure : Roads and irrigation canals built by unskilled labour are of very poor quality (₹ 3 trillion spent without tangible outcomes) .
- No attempt is made to impart skill among workers.
- MGNREGA pushed up rural wages without having much of an impact on rural productivity.
- MGNREGA program has been found to distort labour markets
- Construction companies complain that NREGA has affected the availability of labour .
- MGNREGA has contributed to farm labour shortage in states like Punjab & Haryana .
According to some experts whole ideology on which MGNREGA is based is flawed because it is trying to contain migration of labour. As B.R. Ambedkar pointed out nearly a hundred years ago, the real solution to rural distress is to be found in rapid industrialization as well as urbanization. Govt shouldn’t stop time tested process of migration & instead provide more job facilities in urban centres.
Suggestions to improve
- MGNREGA should have an intensified focus on marginalised communities in the most backward blocks
- Emphasis on skill development
- Act should be linked with the Socio-Economic Caste Census to ensure better targeting.
- Fighting corruption through the use of IT and community-based accountability mechanisms
- Suspend the NREGA programme during peak farming periods
- In order to create the productive assets, the scheme should be converged with related programmes in the department of agriculture, irrigation, animal husbandry and road transport.
Side Topic : Why higher women participation in MGNREGA
Women participation in the flagship rural job scheme MGNREGA has clocked around 51% in financial year 2015-16.
- Wage differential: in informal sector, there is generally greater wage differential between man and women, whereas MGNREGA provides equal wages
- Work near to home
- Unskilled work: since work provided in MGNREGA is unskilled, men who are educated or can find work in near-by towns, does not seek work and women from household take part in work.
- Migration: generally, men migrates to urban areas, leaving women behind who in turn go to MGNREGA
- Work place facilities: MGREGA says that crèche facility must be made available at worksite
- Mobilisation by Self Help Groups in Kerala and other organizations in Rajasthan.
This show that if equal wages, better facilities at work, working facilities closer to home are provided women take active participation in work.