‘NREGA, the only insurance for India’

The World Bank recently said that the spike in ‘unmet demand’ for MGNREGA jobs is an indicator of increasing rural distress.

  • Since the scheme is the only and the best bet India has for mitigating the impact on the poor of the recent unseasonal rains, it has asked the government to take steps aimed at arresting delays in wage payments and the rising unmet demand for jobs.

Details of a Study:

  • The analysis of MGNREGA in a study shows that the programme’s impact on rural poverty in Bihar is only 1 percentage point as against its potential of reducing poverty by at least 14 percentage points.
  • Among the main reasons why the potential is not being realised, the study says, is that the supply side is too slow to respond to the demand for work from the poor, workers not receiving the full scheme wage and delays in wage payments.
  • The study also says that if MGNREGA were to be implemented effectively, its design would ensure that there is no unmet demand for work.

MGNREGA:

  • The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005, also known as the “Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act” is an Indian labour law and social security measure.

Aims:

  • To guarantee the ‘right to work’ and ensure livelihood security in rural areas.
  • To create durable assets that would augment the basic resources available to the poor.
  • To follow the Directive Principles of State Policy enunciated in Part IV of the Constitution of India and conforms to the Article 23 of the Universal Declarationof Human Rights that defines the right to work as a basic human right.

How?

  • By providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

More Details:

  • The provisions of the law also adhere to the principles enunciated in the Constitution of India under Article 21 of the Constitution of India that guarantees the right to life with dignity to every citizen of India.
  • This law guarantees the right to work to the people of India and hence is termed as a “People’s Act”.
  • It is believed that targeting poverty through employment generation is the effective way to alleviate poverty.
  • Employment under Mahatma Gandhi NREGA is a guaranteed legal right.
  • The major responsibility of the implementation rests with Panchayati Raj institutions.
  • Previous employment guarantee schemes (EGS) like ‘Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana’ (SGRY) Programme and National Food For Work Programme (NFFWP) were merged with MGNREGA to make it more effective.
  • The Act sets a minimum limit to the wages, to be paid with gender equality. The states are required to evolve a set of norms for the measurement of works and schedule of rates. The unemployment allowance must be paid if the work is not provided within the statutory limit of 15 days.

Criticism:

  • Activists say that the outlay for the scheme has remained nearly constant for the past three years, which, adjusting for inflation, amounts to a decrease.
  • The release of funds to the States is being delayed and the amounts have been capped. As a result, there has been a 16 per cent decline in employment from the 2013-14 figure.
  • Compared with 147 lakh person days generated in December 2013, only 123 lakh person days were generated in December 2014, with the decline sharper in poor States such as Bihar and Chhattisgarh.
  • Till December 2014 in the financial year 2014-15, 72 per cent of the total wages disbursed were delayed. And delays in wage payments have actually increased over time.
  • However, Evidence from independent research studies have shown that the MGNREGA has successfully curbed distress migration, had large effects on consumption and poverty of Dalit and Adivasi households, increased nutritional standards of households, provided risk resilience to small and marginal farmers and vastly expanded the financial inclusion net in the country.

Sources: The Hindu, NREGA, Wiki.

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