Another Lifeline Smothered: MGNREGA in Shambles -Samarth Grover

-The Economic Times

Even though the scheme had been ranked as the world's largest public works programme by the World Bank, it is being systematically undermined with illegal restrictions on its budget allocation, severe payment delays and low wages.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has been a tried and tested measure to target rising unemployment and ease rural distress in the country. The Rural Employment programme, which guarantees 100 days of manual work a year to at least one member of every rural household, came into effect on February 2, 2006. However, the scheme is being effectively strangulated raising an alarm for the country.

With three more months remaining for completion of the year, as per the Management Information System (MIS) 99 per cent of this year’s allocation is already exhausted and no additional funds have been approved.

On the one hand, the Modi-led NDA government has failed in job creation and providing employment. On the other hand, the country’s only employment guarantee is riddled with problems and being systematically undermined with illegal restrictions on its budget allocation, severe payment delays and low wages.

What was started as a demand-based programme has now been converted to a resource-based programme. In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke the silence surrounding the scheme’s future existence by saying to the Congress, “My political instincts tell me that MGNREGA should not be discontinued, because it is a living memorial to your failures. After so many years in power, all you were able to deliver is for a poor man to dig ditches a few days a month."

Budget Ceiling on MGNREGA

With such statements from the Prime Minister, it is not surprising to find the scheme crumbling. World Bank had previously praised the scheme, and ranked it as the world's largest public works programme. It was further quantified that for the scheme to be successful, India would need to allocate it about 1.7 per cent of its GDP. However, the current allocation amounts to a mere 0.26 per cent of GDP in 2017-18, in contrast with 0.58 per cent in 2010-11.

On January 3, 2019, Members of Parliament and State Assemblies from Karnataka, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar, prominent economists and activists, members of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, Samruddha Bharat Foundation, and leaders of farmers’ movements wrote to the Prime Minister, seeking more funds and demanding the government to renew its political commitment for MGNREGA.

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Newsclick.in, 6 January, 2019, https://www.newsclick.in/another-lifeline-smothered-mgnrega-shambles

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