DEBATE: Is NREGS II a product of a complacent UPA II?
14 organisations throughout the country are up in arms against the manner in which the UPA government has been rushing through the restructuring of the NREGS, which they say is against the spirit of the law and to the detriment of Dalits and the poor. Notable among the civil society activists opposing the amendments are Aruna Roy of the MKSS, poverty economist Jean Dreze, Dunu Roy of the Sanjha Manch, Arundhati Dhuru of the NAPM, Annie Raja of the National Federation of Indian Women.
So far the NREGS work was allowed on the private land of the dalit and tribal farmers but the govt. has now widened its ambit to include all others who own up to five acres of cultivable land (see details in the links below). Those opposed to the amendment believe that the NREGA II strays from its objectives because it removes the focus from the desperately poor SC/ST people. However the supporters of the amendment are firm that an inclusive feature like extending it to all small and marginal farmers can lead to a transformation of Indian agriculture through improved productivity.
The debate has come at a time when the feel good factor surrounding NREGA is already fading with widespread delays in payments, leakages of funds, inefficiency of the babudom, manipulation in the muster-rolls, and non-payment of compensation. In the last fiscal, the average household got 48 days of work instead of 100 days despite demand.
Those against the amendment argue the following:
The Government, on the other hand, is trying to synergize the scheme with other existing schemes so as to create rural assets. The proposed changes in the NREGA-II by the Ministry of Rural Development are:
According to the Letter No. 11019/2/208-NREGA, titled NREGA Joint Convergence Guidelines, 29 May, 2009, which has been issued by Department of Rural Development and Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development:
8. Wage payments will be through no-frills accounts in banks/ post offices.
The links below contain both sides of the story on recent amendments in NREGA and some of the suggestions/ recommendations made by various experts:
Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey (2009), Dalits, the poor and the NREGA, The Hindu, 28 August, 2009,
Mihir Shah (2009), Taking goals of NREGA-I forward, The Hindu, 14 August, 2009,
Ravish Tiwari (2009), Rajiv Sewa Kendras for NREGS soon, The Indian Express, 11 August, 2009,
Saubhadro Chatterji (2009), Govt to modify NREGA to plug loopholes, 1 July, 2009, Business Standard,
NREGA Joint Convergence Guidelines, 29 May, 2009, Department of Rural Development and Department of Land Resources, http://nrega.nic.in/circular/Convergance_Guidelines.pdf
'I'm a little nervous about NREGA-2', Interview of Jean Dreze by Josi Joseph, 17 August, 2009, DNAIndia,
NREGA: Back to Basics, Right to Food Campaign, 10 August, 2009, http://www.righttofoodindia.org/rtowork/nrega2_back_to_bas
NREGA: Essential Demands, Right to Food Campaign, 10 August, 2009, http://www.righttofoodindia.org/data/people_action_for_nre
Detailed Action Points Drawn for Kharif and the coming Rabi Crops, State Agriculture Ministers’ Conference Concludes, 21 August, 2009, Press Information Bureau,
“Tinkering with NREGA will hit poor”, The Hindu, 11 August, 2009, http://www.thehindu.com/2009/08/11/stories/2009081160881100.htm