Government scheme has proved beneficial to the rural unemployed.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was enacted in 2005 by the then UPA Coalition government. The scheme guarantees100 days of work annually for adult members of rural households, in the hope of improving their purchasing power. It provides public works related-unskilled and semi-skilled work, and workers are paid according to the Minimum Wages Act 1948 for Agricultural Labourers. The wage rate cannot fall below Rs. 60 per day.
Today, Community Correspondent Laxmi Nautiyal shows us how MNREGA has affected her village of Gairsen in Uttarakhand. “If we had land, we could depend on it. But we don’t have any. Through this scheme, we get 100 days of income.”
The landless and poor of Gairsen have greatly benefited from MNREGA. For 100 days, they are able to earn an income, providing much needed financial support for their families. This guarantee of a flow of revenue makes a significant difference to their standard of living.
MNREGA has proved successful in Uttarakhand, but other states are having large problems with the implementation of the scheme.
In Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, there is not enough awareness about the procedure for application for MNREGA. As this basic information has not been provided, it directly affects the number of beneficiaries of the scheme. Issues like delays in payment, no unemployment insurance, gender bias in wages, and unsafe and unhygienic working conditions have also proved to be major hurdles in the smooth functioning of MNREGA.
One of the MNREGA provisions states that people who wish to work for the scheme must apply for a job card to their local panchayat. Only when they are given a job card (ideally within 15 days of application) can they begin their 100 days of work. In various states, it is common to find that bribes between Rs. 20 and Rs. 120 have to be paid to obtain a job card, and even with these bribes there are significant delays in acquiring one. There have also been cases where people who already have government jobs have been issued job cards.
MNREGA’s twin objectives of rural development and employment have been achieved in states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and as we have seen in the video, Uttarakhand. As Laxmi puts it, “Under this employment scheme, if people are aware and if the village chief is honest, then a lot can be achieved for the poor, landless and backward caste people.”
– Rajyashri Goody