•Analysis of data by the CAG related to the performance of the scheme showed that there has been significant decline in per rural household employment generation in the last two years. Per rural household employment, declined from 54 days in 2009-10 to 43 days in 2011-12. There was also a substantial decline in the proportion of works completed in 2011-12. Bihar, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, which together account for 46 percent of the rural poor, utilized only about 20 percent of the central scheme funds. This indicated that the correlation between poverty levels and implementation of MGNREGA was not very high *$
•In 10 states and 4 UTs, Government had not constituted Social Audit Units to facilitate the social audit forums. In 11 states and one UT, it was seen that significant fewer social audits from prescribed norms were conducted *$
•Deficiencies, relating to both non-maintenance and incorrect maintenance of prescribed basic records, were noticed in 18 to 54 percent of the all test checked Gram Panchayats, for various types of records. Widespread deficiencies in the maintenance of records restricted the process of proper verification of the outputs and outcomes of the scheme *$
•Percentage share of employment availed by women under MGNREGS was 40% during 2006-07, 43% in 2007-08, 48% in 2008-09, 48% in 2009-10 and 48% in 2010-11. Hence, the percentage of women beneficiary under MGNREGA has been much higher than provided under the Act (i.e. 33% of total employment) €
•Out of total 26.69 crore registered workers under MGNREGA for whom job cards have been issued so far, 11.62 crore (43.53%) are women. In 2010-2011, out of the total of 8.73 crore workers who requested for work, 3.92 crore (44.9%) were women €
•Total number of households provided employment stood at 2.1 crore in financial year (FY) 2006-07, 3.4 crore in FY 2007-08, 4.5 crore in FY 2008-09, 5.3 crore in FY 2009-10, 5.5 crore in FY 2010-11 and 5 crore (provisional figure) in FY 2011-12 @
•Total person days of employment under MGNREGA stood at 90.5 crore in FY 2006-07, 143.59 crore in FY 2007-08, 216.3 crore in FY 2008-09, 283.6 crore in FY 2009-10, 257.2 crore in FY 2010-11 and 209.3 crore in FY 2011-12 @
•Between financial years (FY) 2006-07 and 2011-12, Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) have accounted for 51 per cent of the total person-days generated and women for 47 per cent, well above the mandatory 33 per cent as required by the Act @
•Eighty per cent of households are being paid directly through bank/post office accounts, and 10 crore new bank/post office accounts have been opened @
•12 crore Job Cards (JCs) have been given and these along with the 9 crore muster rolls have been uploaded on the Management Information System (MIS), available for public scrutiny. Since 2010-11, all details with regard to the expenditure of the MGNREGA are available on the MIS in the public domain @
*$ Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on Performance Audit of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Report no.-6 of 2013-Union Government (Ministry of Rural Development),
€ Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guaranty Act (MGNREGA) and Empowerment of Women in Rural Areas by Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women (2011-12), Fourteenth Report, Lok Sabha Secretariat, May, 2012, http://www.im4change.org/docs/692mgnrega_report.pdf
@ MGNREGA Sameeksha: An Anthology of Research Studies on the MGNREGA 2006-2012, Ministry of Rural Development, http://www.im4change.org/docs/63503975mgnrega_sameeksha.pdf
The NREGA evokes extreme reactions from supporters and opponents. When the scheme was launched in 200 districts in 2005, and later expanded to cover the entire country in 2008, its advocates hailed it as the beginning of a new era for rural India. However, it enraged India’s influential neo-liberal economists so much that one of them claimed he had found a better way of ‘wasting’ public money: showering of currency notes from helicopters. For now, the skeptics are silent mainly because of three reasons, a) the scheme is widely regarded as successful, b) It is being hailed as an important reason for the UPA’s return to power, and c) the recession-hit Western world is swearing by public expenditure on welfare. Of late, their criticism is mainly confined to corruption and malpractices, which, in all fairness, are rampant though not insurmountable.
The NREGA differs from most poverty mitigation schemes so far in one fundamental way: It recognizes employment as a legal right. Its fringe benefits include inclusion of the rural poor in the banking system, regeneration of community assets and gender equality. The enactment of NREGA also signifies coming of age of Indian advocacy and civil society activism. The credit for converting a somewhat utopian idea into a policy push goes to numerous civil society activists, committed experts and grassroots organizations who worked for years to achieve this. Many of these activists are now working on effective social audits and a system of compensations for delay in wage payments.
Some leading NGOs in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh have enrolled graduate students from leading universities and hip urban youths to run NREGA helpdesks. At places they are also helping in conducting social audits. For instance a month-long struggle with the help of young Delhi University volunteers led to a compensation of Rs 2000 each to 174 villagers in Khunti and Murhu blocks in Jharkhand amounting to Rs 3.48 lakh in June 2009. These villagers’ wages had been delayed in gross violation of the statutes.
Despite the optimism generated by the implementation of the NREGA, it runs the risk of degenerating into yet another government dole in the absence of comprehensive reforms in India’s local governance and public service delivery mechanism. Many experts argue that an effective execution of the NREGA requires a cadre of functionaries accountable to the village Panchayats with adequate funding and a comprehensive roadmap.