Free 850 words Essay on MGNREGA – Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act for school and college students.
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
World Bank in 2012 reported that India is home to the maximum number of poor in any country. There can’t be a more diabolical figure for a postcolonial nation that ranks high on Gross Domestic Product but disdainfully low on Human Development Index. A multidimensional, multicultural and highly stratified country like India, has multiple reasons to complain about such high rates of poverty. Some of them could be vagaries of nature, drought, natural disaster, chronic health issues, etc. Such unpredictability and lack of enough unskilled unemployment opportunities have been addressed by the Government of India through the MGNREGA which is a temporary employment guarantee scheme. Its primary objective is to provide livelihood opportunities to the unskilled population thereby creating durable assets and strengthening the resource base of rural areas.
Major features of the Act:
- The adult members willing to do unskilled work are eligible to work for assured 100 days.
- Registration has to be done at the local gram panchayat, where a job card would be availed after due verification.
- The employment seeker will be given work 15 days after the application. In cases otherwise, there is a provision of daily unemployment allowance.
- There is a one-third reservation for women.
- The wages are paid as prescribed in the Minimum Wages Act 1948 and cannot be less than Rs.60.
- Planning and implementation are under the principal control of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).
- The scheme envisages that the shelf of the project is prepared on a priority basis under the direct control of Gram Sabha.
- There is a provision to maintain a 60:40 wage and material ratio and there is a prohibition of contractors and use of machinery that can replace labor.
- The work should be designed in such a way that it falls under a 5km distance.
- A progressive step of social audit has been instructed for the scheme that ensures transparency and accountability.
- Grievance redressal mechanism assures a responsible and sincere implementation.
- There is no role of a contractor and this feature is non-negotiable.
- Wage payments have to be necessarily done through bank accounts or post office accounts.
As far as funding is concerned, the Central Government provides 100% share of the wages, and 75% of the material costs. In addition to that, the State government balances the rest 25% of the material costs and also bears 100% of the daily unemployment allowance.
This statutory employment guarantee has created a paradigm shift from the previous employment schemes. The scheme has even been extended to Jammu & Kashmir. The government spends 4% of the total administrative cost towards deploying extra personnel who are inevitable for the dispensation of the scheme.
A web enabled Management Information System (MIS) has put the database of the block and district in the public domain, thereby rendering the system transparent. It includes the worker’s entitlement documents, work selection and execution data, employment demanded and delivered, and other financial indicators.
National Level Monitors have been employed for monitoring and evaluation. Program review is done at the level of Minister and Secretary of Rural Development.
Some of the tools for maintenance of public accountability are proactive disclosure of annual reports, RTI information, social auditing and grievance redressal mechanism by the District Level Ombudsman.
Outcomes of MGNREGA:
- A phenomenal increase in the employment demand and accelerated person days has fulfilled the primary objective of the scheme.
- 1/3rd of the beneficiaries have been women and thus the scheme has successfully reduced the skewed employment ratio delivering better than the premeditated target.
- Households belonging to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes below the poverty line have been major beneficiaries.
- A multitude of community assets has been created across the country through MGNREGA task implementation such as water harvesting, afforestation, drought proofing, micro and macro irrigation works, renovation of water bodies, flood protection structures, land development, rural connectivity, etc.
- It acts as a supplementary income to the agricultural workers and farmers in off-seasons, helping them sustain a dignified livelihood.
- Rural household income has augmented in the Left-Wing Extremism affected states of Chattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh.
- MGNREGA provides an impetus to entrepreneurship, increases the bargaining power of poor, and has a multiplier effect on the rural economy.
Several analysts have entailed MGNREGA as the wrong answer to rural distress. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself calls it a living monument of Congress Party’s failure irrespective of the kind of immense constructive contribution MGNREGA has made. The predominant reason for this scathing accusation is the unbelievable leakage practices. Experts even claim that just a small percentage of poor have been helped and a huge chunk of funds is misappropriated and embezzled by authorities at the various hierarchies. Political establishment turns a blind eye to these scandalous leakages and the poor remain repressed under this unabashed chicanery.
Nevertheless, the positive outcomes as depicted by several independent researchers and reports by the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and Ministry of Rural Development claim that MGNREGA has created significant rural infrastructure and has become a lifeline to the rural poor. There might be discrepancies and subterfuge, that needs to be critically addressed, but the viability and inevitability of the scheme cannot be undermined unless the Central government comes up with a superior alternative.