Context: MGNREGA scheme just turned 10 years old.
Q. What are some of the salient features of this scheme which made it different from other government schemes?
- It’s a ground up, not a top down scheme. Even the law was passed on demand of people.
- This is a demand driven scheme not supply driven i.e. if people demand work, govt can not deny them work.
- Self selecting, no apl/bpl funda. Rich would not be willing to do hard manual labour.
- Inbuilt provision of social audit
Q. How successful the scheme has been?
- It has made a fundamental difference in the lives of poeple, it could have made more with more govt support.
- Generated employment in the countryside and prevented distress migration.
- It has created assets in the villages, improving agriculture productivity.
- Raised rural wages.
Fact is where it runs well, it has achieved great things, where it doesn’t run well, it has given people bargaining power, dignity, a sort of marketing mechanism.
Q. What are the concerns articulated by critics?
- Money is being allotted for earth work (temporary work), not for creation of permanent assets. Dig the pits, fill the pits.
- Work design is very poor. For instance, wells are dug on impermeable surface. Project completion rate is poor.
- Huge corruption in implementation, fake job cards etc.
We need to link this scheme to skill development and focus on creation of permanent assets which increase productivity.
Q. What are the concerns raised by the proponents regarding implementation of scheme?
- A demand driven scheme can not run without money. Govt is killing the scheme by benign neglect.
- Lag in issuance of work is dissuading people from seeking work. Demand is being artificially suppressed.
- Linking of adhar to bank accounts will be a disaster. Biometric do not work in Indian conditions for manual labourers.
- Person-day employment has come down.
Q. What’s the way forward?
- Let us identify the problems that exist, let us overcome them.
- There should be more participation. People should own the project. Empower the people.
- Use social audit mechanism to weed out corruption.
- There should be more frequent evaluation along with social impact assessment of the projects undertaken.
- Prepare a proper plan according to which the work would be done. Work has to be prioritized.