Video Advocacy: MGNREGA

Since 2006, Video Volunteers’ Community Correspondents Network (CCN) – a cadre of 186 community video journalists – have been using their video cameras to highlight issues of injustice affecting their local communities. One of the key thematic areas has been the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). Our CCs have so far produced 114 video reports since 2010, highlighting a range of issues surrounding the implementation and delivery of MGNREGA.

 

2015 11 CCN - MGNREGA Blog Photo 540px

Using videos to highlight MGNREGA issues
MGNREGA (the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) is a government employment scheme that guarantees rural households 100 days of paid employment if they demand it. We have been helping to educate socially excluded communities about their right to employment and to mobilise them to demand MGNREGA work.

However, as various videos made by Community Correspondents show, many people are still facing problems in demanding, accessing and being paid for work under MGNREGA.

For example, Anil Kumar, our correspondent from Uttar Pradesh  shows how the lack of MGNREGA work in Kushal village for 3 years has left residents asking the government how they will survive with no income. Similarly, correspondent Anita Bharti’s video (below) highlights how people are being denied both MGNREGA jobs and their unemployment allowance, in Basuhi village, Uttar Pradesh.

 

Anita’s video from Uttar Pradesh shows how villagers have been denied their right to MGNREGA work, despite demanding it.

There are also videos that show other failures of the MGNREGA scheme: corruption in Sikkat, Bihar, the merging of Panchayats in Bakhri, Bihar and bureaucratic tyranny in Mohatipur, UP.

A Reform-Based Approach:
In September 2015, VV in association with our partners and funders Poorest Areas of Civil Society (PACS), conducted a training during our National Meet. 132 Correspondents from 13 states attended and learnt about MGNREGA provisions and the avenues through which Correspondents can use their videos to get the authorities to respond.

As a result, the focus of Correspondents’ videos has shifted from merely documenting failures to a more reform-based approach, aimed at solving the gaps in implementation and celebrating the successful outcomes of the scheme.
For example, Navita Devi – our correspondent from Katihar, Bihar – achieved impact using a mixture of both video footage and community mobilisation to highlight the plight of 100 workers who had not been paid their wages. By getting together a group of the workers to approach the District Officer, and then showing him the video documentation (below), payment was released to all the 100 workers through reform-focused dialogue.

 

Navita’s impact video shows how video advocacy can work – all 100 workers were eventually paid their MGNREGA wages after this video was made

As of December, 2015, VV has achieved an impressive 32% impact rate– i.e. 36 out of 114 violations were successfully resolved. These figures reflect how communities are gradually getting empowered to demand their right to stable and transparent livelihood opportunities by working in close quarters with local authorities.

A survey conducted by National Council of Applied Economic Research reveals that MGNREGA has significantly contributed to reducing poverty by 32% and has prevented 14 million people from falling into poverty. The bottom-line is that MGNREGA is still the best anti-poverty antidote in India and it needs both government will and community mobilisation to survive.

Together, PACS, Video Volunteers and the network of Community Correspondents are making sure that the voices and experiences of grassroots communities are documented and heard. What is needed is for the government to listen and respond to them…

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