By Shashank Saurav:
IndiaÂ being one of the few developing and self dependent democracies in the world, its politicians have never left a stone unturned in enamoring and enticing the voters. A living proof of this is the huge number of Acts and Schemes, passed by the parliament, designed to the help the public. However the bottomline is that most of these designs have failed to reach the public and have only helped in filling the coffers of politicians and administrators. Another such act (the last of the lot) was approved by the decision makers in the year 2005; the results so far have been less than inspiring, although the effort deserves praise.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA, earlier known as NREGA) is an Indian employment guarantee scheme, enacted by legislation on August 25, 2005. The act provides a legal guarantee of one hundred days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work at a minimum wage of Rs.100 per day. The Central government has set aside Rs. 40,100 crores for this yojana in FY 2010-11.
It was assumed that NREGA had the potential to improve living conditions in rural areas by providing wholesome economic support through unskilled manual work to the locals. It is also committed to ensuring that at least 33% of the workers shall be women. Some of the economic activities under this scheme are-:
1. Work linked to agriculture, food processing and watershed development.
2. Services such as health care, selling medicines, child care, old age care etc.
3. Works of public interest sponsored by government such as environmental work, recycling, water harvesting, operation and maintenance of water resources like hand pumps and pipelines.
4. Many such works which may be local to the area including paper cups making, bidi rolling and pottery among others.
The provision to include women under this act is a refreshing and welcome change. Most of the laws passed so far simply concentrated on development, eradicating poverty and controlling hunger. Nevertheless with the advancement and participation of women in each and every sphere of society, their inclusion was inevitable. Focus was also laid upon:
-Awareness level of women on NREGA.
-Extent of women’s accessibility to such economic activities.
-Acceptance on the part of their families to their participation.
So far only the details and provisions of NREGA have been laid bare.
It is also essential to understand the necessity of implementing this act and its impact on a country like India.
In rural India, one major problem is of seasonal employment, i.e. a large number of people have to face unemployment during certain parts of the year. Hence many communities in the dry and drought prone areas have to migrate seasonally to other parts of the country in search of work; this process tends to prove cumbersome and improvident. Those who are left behind are unable to feed themselves properly and do not have sufficient income to earn their daily livelihood. Even when communities do not migrate, they suffer a great deal of trouble in surviving in such harsh conditions. Kids are generally the worst affected as they suffer from perennial problems like malnutrition and starvation which in extreme cases results in slow and painful death. At such times the NREGA acts like a fail-safe mechanism providing income and employment when needed the most.
In effect for nearly five years, the act has been successfully implemented in certain states. Still a lot needs to be done to spread its positive effects through larger states. One of the major hurdles still remains the cooperation between state governments and the centre. Politics usually has an important role to play in such situations. Its ugly face lurking beneath the shadows comes out in its full glory when the blame game for the failure of the act and credit game for its successful implementation starts. This has already happened once between Congress and BJP. So lets hope politics does not decapitate the NREGA because without its head (in this case the central and the state government) its body (the rural populace) will become a mere deteriorating entity.
The writer is the Special Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.
Image courtesy: http://priasoft1.tn.nic.in/rdwebsite/schemes/nrega.html