[Reader-list] Reg: Set - 3

Rakesh Iyer rakesh.rnbdj at gmail.com
Thu Jun 17 23:14:40 IST 2010

Hi all

Today's theme: NREGA (Right to Employment)

Source: Mint


Date: Posted: Thu, Feb 18 2010. 1:15 AM IST


NREGA schemes check villagers’ exodus to cities
Women making up the majority of workers is helping supplement incomes; money
is reaching those it should
Ruhi Tewari
Bhilwara (Rajasthan): IIn Danta village, 15km from Bhilwara city, 30-odd
women start filing in at 8.30 am daily to resume work on building a concrete
water reservoir. The women are among the 2,000 people in the village who
have got work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA)
since the scheme, promising 100 days of work a year to one adult member of
every rural family, was launched two years ago in the region. Many of the
beneficiaries are women who did no gainful work earlier.

In these rural parts, NREGA serves as an effective safety net for the
unemployed, especially during years of famine and drought, supplementing
household incomes and reducing migration to cities by villagers in search of
work. It helps the rural poor economically by not just putting cash in their
hands, but also helping them create sustainable assets.

“People get 100 days of employment in a year and get Rs95-100 per day and,
hence, are able to earn close to Rs10,000 every year,” said Ram Deo, a
social activist associated with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) in
Danta village. “Given that around 80% of the workforce under NREGA comprises
women, it means whatever is earned under the scheme is additional income for
the household, something that has helped increase their purchasing power and
disposable income.”

NREGA is the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government’s flagship
programme and has been credited with helping it return to power in 2009’s
general election.

Launched in February 2006, the programme, recently renamed the Mahatma
Gandhi NREGA, gets the most government money among social welfare schemes,
with an allocation of Rs39,100 crore in the year ending 31 March. As
*Mint*reported on 23 January, it may get a 15% hike in allocation in
Budget 2010,
scheduled to be announced on 26 February, taking the outlay to Rs45,000

For a change, the money seems to be percolating down to where it needs to
reach, resulting in the generation of income. In Danta village, this has had
the effect of stemming the movement of people to the city.

“Earlier, we would all have to migrate to a city during the lean season. But
now, in most cases, even the men don’t have to go,” said Kamla, an NREGA
worker who uses only her first name. “There is only one problem; we are not
getting our payment in time in this village. We get it after every
three-four months. Also, with such inflation, the minimum wage rate should
be increased.”

NREGA stipulates that workers should be paid within 15 days, and timely
payment is crucial for beneficiaries of the scheme at a time when monthly
headline inflation has risen to a 15-month high of 8.56% on the back of
soaring food prices.

Rajasthan is one of the states where NREGA is known to be implemented
effectively, and the ministry of rural development is looking to use
Bhilwara district—also the constituency of rural development minister C.P.
Joshi—as a development model by introducing several pilot projects in the

A social audit of NREGA was conducted by NGOs in Bhilwara in
September-October, making it the first district to be covered by such a
check, which uncovered some cases of corruption, irregularities and delayed
payments. The administration of Bhilwara district, however, said delayed
payments do not reflect any lacunae in the release of funds.

“Around 75% of the payments are made through post office accounts and delays
at that level might cause late payments, but funds from our side are
released on time,” said Manju Rajpal, district collector of Bhilwara and a
former NREGA commissioner. “To that extent, the postal department has to be
strengthened. As far as timely payments are concerned, our role is limited
to depositing money in the workers’ accounts.”

Rajpal also said the impact of the scheme is now visible and one can see how
it has increased “bargaining power” as well as household incomes among the
poor in rural areas.

“Around 80% of the workforce is (constituted by) women, who were previously
unproductive. By working under the scheme, women are able to bring (in)
supplementary income,” she said. “Also, NREGA does not just give wages to
labour, but also creates community assets which are useful for the villagers
in the long run. It has both direct and indirect benefits.”

Till January, 481,912 households had been given NREGA job cards in Bhilwara
district and 386,734 provided employment under the scheme. Of these, 116,095
have completed 100 days of work this fiscal.

To widen the scope of asset creation under the scheme, the Centre last year
tied NREGA to other government schemes related to agriculture, water
resources, land resources, forests and rural roads.

Apart from traditional NREGA work such as digging wells and ponds and
building water reservoirs, paved roads are now being built in Bhilwara
district in association with the public works department (PWD). According to
officials, 257 such roads have been sanctioned, 185 are under construction
and 34 have already been completed.

“We are also in talks with dairy cooperatives for work related to dairies
under NREGA. The forest department has also been roped in, in some cases,”
Rajpal said.

In Govindpura village, NREGA workers are constructing a paved road under

“I have already worked for 65 days and am getting Rs90-95 per day,” said
worker Leela Ramlal, who made the point that people don’t need to go off to
cities any more during the lean season.

Most villagers prefer to work under NREGA rather than in factories nearby
since the scheme entails eight hours of labour a day against the 12 hours
workers have to put in at the latter.

“Our payment is usually regular and we get paid within 15 days of work.”
Ramlal said. “Since we have started working under NREGA, our economic
condition has improved by a great extent.”

In another experiment, the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES)—a
non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Anand, Gujarat, which seeks to
conserve ecologically sensitive land and water resources—is working as the
implementing agency for NREGA in a few villages in Bhilwara and Udaipur
districts. FES—the only NGO acting as an NREGA implementing body in
Rajasthan—aims to leverage the scheme to scale up measures for environment,
land, soil and water conservation.

In Manoharpura village in the north-east of Bhilwara district, where FES
acts as the executing agency, villagers are developing a pasture surrounded
by a cattle protection trench to prevent animals from destroying the pasture
before it is ready to be grazed. The 40ha plot also has a continuous contour
trench to check soil erosion and recharge the water table.

Manoharpura illustrates the impact of NREGA on the economic lives of the
rural poor and consequently, on migration.

Inhabited primarily by the Bhil and Kalbelia tribes, apart from Rajputs and
Brahmins, the village earlier saw large-scale migration of entire families
to cities during lean periods—a trend that is fading now.

Before NREGA, all the 10 Kalbelia families in the village would migrate to
cities, said Harnath Singh, activist and field coordinator for FES. That’s
changed—just the men from six of the families have gone looking for work in
cities for a few months, while everyone from the remaining four has chosen
to stay back in the village, he said.

NREGA, it appears, has succeeded in removing the kind of wrenching poverty
that the community endured. “These Kalbelia families would often go from one
house to another in the village, begging for food,” Singh said. “Now, even
that has ended.”

*ruhi.t at livemint.com*

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