Millennium Post

Rural job security in trouble

It is disquieting that an official survey of the job guarantee scheme under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan has revealed that barely half of the minimum 100 day per person entitlement  is claimed. Worse, even in the cases where entitlements are claimed, full wages are not paid. This indicates that there are serious problems with the scheme including in its implementation and, besides the inefficiency, there are leakages of money  at the local level as well as enormous corruption. This would be unfortunate as the MGNREGA was developed as important tool to transform the lives of the rural poor, aiming at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing hundred days of wage-employment in a financial year to a rural household who volunteer to do unskilled manual work. The scheme was initially picked up with great enthusiasm but this has been dwindling. On paper, it is still an impressive scheme. In 2011-12, 37.8 million households were provided employment and 1,208 million persondays of work were generated. But it is well known that there have been problems with this job scheme right from the start. It is the awareness of the flaws in in the scheme and the fact that it was not performing well that has led the  government to a announce a reformed  version called MGNREGA 2.0 to ensure that the needs of the rural people as guaranteed by the Act are properly met and acted upon.

Yet it would appear that MGNREGA has not been meticulously planned and fundamental problems have not been dealt with. For example, under MGNREGA unskilled work is being provided to people where they want it instead of the people moving to where the work is, that is to large infrastructure projects in rural and other areas. The result is that the assets created are not durable or of dubious quality. It is not surprising that, in this context, that anguished rural development minister Jairam Ramesh's has lamented that that the scheme had been reduced to one for digging ditches. More worrying are the delays in payment as a result of which many households are reluctant to register for work. The government must, therefore, carefully look into the scheme, into which very large amounts of the taxpayers money has been poured, so that it does not end up being just a means for the enrichment of the corrupt few.
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