MGNREGA-THE LARGEST WORKFARE
MGNREGA, recognized as the world’s largest social security and public work programmes, is the hope of lakhs of workers that have lost their livelihood in this global pandemic times. With each passing days, their survival is questioned and finding the means to feed their stomach becomes their first hunt.
MGNREGA-Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act- was legislated and passed in 2005 under the UPA government. Formerly known as NREGA, it is a demand-driven programme that provides at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult member volunteers to do unskilled manual work.
And if the work isn’t provided within the 15 days of application, the applicant is entitled to an unemployment allowance as per the act.
Besides the creation of productive and durable rural assets, the core objective and its goals also include- strengthening the livelihood resource base of the poor, empowerment of the socially disadvantaged and enhanced social protection of the people.
The Union Budget (of this fiscal year FY2020-2021) has allocated a fund of Rs 61,500 crore. From the numbers’ perspective, the allotment that was done in the budget is 9% less as compared with the revised estimate of FY 2019-20 (Rs 71,002 crore).
An additional Rs 40,000 crore has also been inserted, this May, to meet the COVID19 crisis upon the migrant worker. With this relief package, the final sum amounts to Rs 101,500 crore for this year.
For some, this is considered a well timely respite for the labourer, while some activist and organization claim it to be a half-hearted measure. There are claims and acquisition that this amount will not be of any help as it would only be drained in clearing up the previous year’s pending arrears.
The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha finds that around 20% of the budget is used to clear the past years’ arrears. Hence, it’s no such relief as it is displayed. A study report released by Rajendra Narayan (Azam Premji University) and two other independent researchers reveals that 68% of payment is not released timely to the people.
From many of the lacuna running in this scheme, the most that hit is the amount to be delivered to the workers. This is of high importance now, as millions have lost their jobs and have returned home due to the pandemic. The lockdown that’s prevailing does not allow them to work elsewhere too.
In India, most of the rural household (these days) get their majority of income from something other than agriculture. With all the shutdown of economic activities, the paralysis of the implementation of MGNREGA will definitely break their spine, if not today but tomorrow for sure.
On the 29th of June, many workers across the country rose to demand an increase in the guarantee of work to 200 days/person and the daily wages rates to be Rs 600.
They were also seen demanding work on only locally planned segment and projects. The demand for employment has increased, but it seems the government has failed to address it completely, resulting in addition to the pending liabilities.
The average days of employment are below 50, and at times the unemployment allowance gets delayed for months too which are indeed a violation of the mandate of the act. It is also publicized that states suppress the demand for work and turn away the worker.
The inadequate allocation of funds and corruption at various levels have undoubtedly led to backlogs of payments of wages, and this is no reasonable scenario at times when workers are also progressing towards reverse migration. It certainly indicates that negligence of the government towards the execution and purpose of the act.
Some suggestions have surfaced from various corners. Ther are opinions to engage the employment in SMEs, while some advocate to allow the worker to indulge in agricultural works. It will not reduce the cost at other sectors but also provide an opportunity for the government to handle the unemployment crisis of the unskilled workers.
The said increased allocation (Rs 40,000 cr) and attention, though is a very welcome move, yet it won’t be sufficient to counter the current issues of reverse migration, standstill production and declining GDP of the nation.
A workfare programme like MGNREGA needs more rapid adjustments and rejuvenation. Creation of millions of jobs is no easy task, but if the responsibility is shared well amongst the appropriate stakeholders, diminish the mistrust amongst them and not accusing each other with the shortcomings, then certainly millions of lives will get a hope of survival.
Article written by Nimai Ranjan Bibhar
Image Source : Google