The MGNREGA, which came into existence in 2005, is one of the most ambitious schemes of central government with the sole purpose of reducing the unemployment status at rural level. It seeks to identify the rural areas and ensures job guarantee, enacted by legislation on August 25, 2005. MGNREGA ensures minimum 100 days of employment to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-skilled or unskilled at the statutory minimum wage of INR 100. Central government sponsored around INR 40,000 crore in FY 2010-11 and 88,000 crore this year. MGNREGA came into force in around 200 districts of the country.
The main emphasis behind MGNREGA is to enhance livelihood security, to increase consumption status, to guarantee employment and to act as a growth engine for sustainable agricultural development.
But, Does MGNREGA truly lived to its purpose? Does the employment status have been guaranteed to every rural citizen?
In 2011, MGNREGA was widely criticized for nepotism, favouritism and influenced by bloody vote bank politics. Started as a noble means of ensuring employment, the scheme is narrowed down as a means of capturing vote banks. It is widely influenced by corruption, poor funding from central and state governments, poor infrastructure for unanimous implementation and discretion in poverty levels during grant of funds.
At the top most level lies the big corruption who is the mother of destruction of any fruitful scheme. MGNREGA seems to be a puppet show of few politicians who forces rural to pay bribery to get jobs. Money granted for this scheme remains in the hands of state politicians who in turn uses this money during election campaigning and showing this during audit as “MGNREGA reforms” and getting escaped easily. NREGA scam in Bihar and MP districts has truly revealed the underlying corruption behind such kind of implementation.
Lack of proper records to check for the number of households in rural areas demanding jobs and actual number of people benefitted from this ambitious scheme. This resulted in distribution disparity among the rural households and aggravated the inflation rate. In a country like India, whose 70 percent population dwells in villages, implementing such scheme would increase the wholesale price index much higher times.
Money distribution pattern under NREGA has also suffered from income redistribution and increased dependency by rural for satisfying their needs. Rather than providing employment in something beneficial and durable long term projects, state government provides employment which are short and not worth working. This would lead to loss of time and workers spend most of their time at home and get INR 100 free per day. This would ultimately lead to money wastage and demise of NREGA. These workers are just called for attendance and sent back home. The money granted for NREGA is then used for buying liquor and serving to businessmen or contractors.
Villagers started registering themselves as BPL and villages cannot sustain so huge unskilled and not-so-literate labourers. Thus, by providing “useless” work, government is creating dependency and indirectly committing social crime.
Delay in payment of wages, payment of wages less than minimum wages, denial of registration, definition of household, delay in distribution of MGNREGA cards and absence of worksite facilities for suitable work are the hurdles for full fledged implementation of MGNREGA.
Unless there is a creation of independent monitoring body, proper operational set-up and grievances redressal system, MGNREGA would not be able to live up-to its dream in a country like India.
By Divyanshu Kumar Singh, IIM lucknow.
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