1.4 lakh families reach MGNREGA’s annual work limit

#GS3 #Social Justice

What are the issues?

  • At least 1.4 lakh poor rural households have already completed their quota of 100 days of work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the first three months of the year, and will not be eligible for further benefits under the scheme for the rest of the year. 
  • Another seven lakh households have completed 80 days and are on the verge of running out of work as well, according to the scheme’s database.
  • COVID­19 pandemic and the lockdown has resulted in huge unemployment rates. 
  • Migrant workers returning to their villages are now dependent on MGNREGA wages. 
  • In many areas, monsoon is the hungry season. If MGNREGA work stops at this time, it will be a huge crisis for these families.
  • The monsoon is good so far. For those who work at farms that will be an option for the next few months. 
  • The worst scenario could be in December when agriculture work is over and the MGNREGA work has also run out. 

 

MGNREGA:

Objectives: 

  • MGNREGA, the largest work guarantee program in the world, was enacted in 2005 with the primary objective of guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment per year to rural households. 
  • It aims at addressing causes of chronic poverty through the 'works' (projects) that are undertaken and thus ensuring sustainable development. 
  • There is an emphasis on strengthening the process of decentralization through giving a significant role to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in planning and implementing these works.

 

Key features:

  • Legal right to work: Unlike earlier employment guarantee schemes, the Act provides a legal right to employment for adult members of rural households.  At least one-third of beneficiaries have to be women.  Wages must be paid according to the wages specified for agricultural laborers in the state under the  Minimum Wages Act, 1948 unless the central government notifies a wage rate (this should not be less than Rs 60 per day).  At present, wage rates are determined by the central government but vary across states, ranging from Rs 135 per day to Rs 214 per day.
  • Time-bound guarantee of work and unemployment allowance: Employment must be provided with 15 days of being demanded failing which an ‘unemployment allowance’ must be given.
  • Decentralized planning: Gram sabhas must recommend the works that are to be undertaken and at least 50% of the works must be executed by them.  PRIs are primarily responsible for planning, implementation, and monitoring of the works that are undertaken.
  • Worksite facilities: All work sites should have facilities such as crèches, drinking water, and first aid.
  • Transparency and accountability: There are provisions for proactive disclosure through wall writings, citizen information boards, Management Information Systems, and social audits.  Social audits are conducted by gram sabhas to enable the community to monitor the implementation of the scheme.
  • Funding:  Funding is shared between the center and the states.  There are three major items of expenditure – wages (for unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled labor), material, and administrative costs.  The central government bears 100% of the cost of unskilled labor, 75% of the cost of semi-skilled and skilled labor, 75% of the cost of materials, and 6% of the administrative costs.
  • MGNREGA was implemented in phases, starting from February 2006, and at present, it covers all districts of the country with the exception of those that have a 100% urban population.  The Act provides a list of works that can be undertaken to generate employment related to water conservation, drought proofing, land development, and flood control and protection works.

 

Way Forward: 

  • The limit should be imposed per adult individual rather than per household. 
  • The MGNREGA scheme contains a provision for districts affected by drought or other natural disasters to request an expansion of the scheme to allow for 150 days of work per household. Given that COVID­19 was declared a national disaster, this can be enacted, later this can be even increased more up to 200 days per individual.
  • The daily wage should be increased up to INR 600 as the current wage rate of INR 200 per day does not even match up to minimum wage rates in most States.

 

Source: The Hindu

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