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‘Demand on rise for doubling of financial grant and work days under NREGA’

  • Category
    Social Issues
  • Published
    15th Sep, 2020

Activists demand doubling of financial grant and work days under NREGA

Context

  • Activists demand doubling of financial grant and work days under NREGA

What activists are demanding?

  • Highlighting how the Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of NREGA for rural India, the People’s Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), a network of civil society organisations, activists and academics, has sought that the promised Rs 40,000 crore relief package be released by the Centre immediately as Rs 64,000 crores has been already spent and delays in wage payment would compound the woes of the rural poor.
  • They also draw attention to households that need work and have exhausted 100 days.
  • As per the PAEG analysis based on data from the NREGA MIS of the rural development ministry, around 6.8 lakh households have already completed 100 days of work, but this is only 1.2% of those employed under NREGA.
  • Also an additional 51 lakh households have already completed 70 days of work. On average in the last 5 years, 42 lakh households completed 100 days of work in a year. It is further stated that most states are unable to provide a 100 - day guarantee
  • It is shared that as many as 85 lakh new job cards have been issued since April 2020 (22% increase in the number of new job cards compared to the last 5 years). It is shared that 5.8 crore households have got work under NREGA since April this year and on average, the number of households that worked in NREGA in the last 5 years is 5.2 crore.
  • In light of the current crisis, Rs 40,000 crores were allocated by the government of India in addition to the Rs 60,000 crores in the union budget for 2020-21. So far this year, timely and adequate allocation of funds has implied timely payment of wages.
  • They go on to point that Rs 1 lakh crore in absolute terms, is the highest ever allocation. However, even before the half-way mark in this financial year, about Rs 64,000 crores have already been spent.

Mandate of Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (MGNREGA)

  • The mandate of the MGNREGA is to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

Issues facing MGNREGA

  • The low wage rates have resulted in lack of interest among workers in working for MGNREGA schemes, making way for contractors and middle men to take control, locally.
  • Despite the order of the Supreme Court and initiatives and GO (Government Order) by the Union Ministry of Finance, no provision has yet been worked out in the MIS for calculation of full wage delays and payment of compensation for the same.
  • The ministry withholds wage payments for workers of states that do not meet administrative requirements within the stipulated time period. It is beyond any logic as to why workers would be penalised for administrative lapses.
  • Due to great rush and poor infrastructure, the bank passbooks are not updated in many cases. Often, the workers do not get their wages during times of need due to the hassle and the cost involved in getting wages from the bank.
  • There is a growing pile of evidence on how real-time MIS has made MGNREGA less transparent for workers, reduced accountability of frontline functionaries and aided in centralisation of the programme.
  • There are a huge number of unemployment allowances being shown in the MIS currently.
  • While the government has been boasting about Aadhar-based savings, the reality is that a huge number of genuine job cards and ration cards are getting deleted and genuine people have been deprived of their due entitlements.

Suggested measures

  • The specialised training programmes be organised in the rural areas preferably in the village panchayats so that these functionaries get proper training for the better execution of the works.
  • It is recommended that Gram Sabha and panchayat members should be sent for exposure visits to other states like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala where NREGA has done wonderful work.
  • To curb corruption & malpractices, it is a requirement that MGNREGA works are properly monitored and supervised.
  • The wage rates to be paid under NREGA should be revised on one hand and subsequently every year there should be enhancement in the existing wage rates by a reasonable percentage say around 10-15% or so.
  • Women workers, particularly those with children, face major inconvenience due to lack of Creche facility and toilets. So the steps should be taken to provide adequate worksite facilities.
  • The programme has the provision for 100 days employment per household. As such if a household who has more than one adult member, the mandats should be increased suitably however with some ceiling.
  • The MGNREGS should develop a relevant instrument to provide skill generating work and activities for literate beneficiaries instead of engaging them completely in manual work.
  • Women participation can be enhanced by appointing female supervisors on MGNREGS works. Women should be involved in the selection of works, which can create further mainstream employment in the village.
  • Strict actions should be taken against the officers and other employees who are found involved in misguiding the persons who make their approaches to them to know about the Government Schemes for employment opportunities.

Conclusion:

 MGNREGA’s success at the ground level is subject to proper and uninterrupted fund flow to the states. The government should ensure that the fund allocation is sufficient to ensure proper implementation on the ground. Also, now, amid the pandemic the focus has to be on getting people, including the migrant labourers, back to normal work.

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