Govt needs to plug loopholes, minimise irregularities, in implementation of NREGA in times when it is most needed.
What is MGNREGA?
MGNREGA is a legal work guarantee programme. The objective of the scheme is to guarantee 100 days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do unskilled manual work.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) was enacted to offer lean-season employment households that were seeking it and to create basic infrastructure to put livelihoods and agriculture on a sound footing in these areas.
MGNREGA in Current Covid 19 Scenario:
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme (MGNREGA) has played a critical role in alleviating the economic hardship stemming from the pandemic.
Work demanded by households under the scheme has surged as non-farm employment opportunities have fallen and as millions of migrant labourers returned to their villages.
In 2020-21, the first year of the pandemic, 11.19 crore individuals worked under the scheme, up from 7.88 crore in 2019-20.
In the ongoing financial year, 9.52 crore individuals have so far benefited from it. On its part, the central government increased the scheme’s allocation to Rs 1.1 lakh crore in 2020-21 to meet the surging demand.
In the ongoing financial year, apart from the budgetary allocation of Rs 73,000 crore, additional allocations have been made recently.
Issues within MGNREGA:
Inadequate Financing: Phenomenon of Shortfall is occurring almost every fiscal year. E.g. Fund crunch in 24 States and UTs in 2021
Paucity of funds disrupts demand-supply cycle of employment. Lack of funds results in suppression of demand for work and also constrains post covid rural economic recovery.
Mandatory provision of disbursement of wages within 15 days is an open failure in almost every state. In addition, no statutory guarantee compensation given for any delay in payment.
Inefficiencies and unholy nexus of PRI with officials create hurdle in proper implementation of scheme e.g., Duplication of Job Cards.
Phenomenon of low quality and high Inefficiency in work leading to poor asset creation in rural economy.
Corrupt practices of ill-distribution of pay to workers, creation of fake bills, delay in payments, scamming of funds had entered NREGA long back which led to the epic failure and criticism of the scheme by the government.
A report on the social audit unit (SAU) of the Rural Development Department of Jharkhand has documented several instances of irregularities.
In many cases, the audit found that workers were listed on the records but were missing from work sites.
Instances where beneficiaries have struck deals with contractors allowing them to use their names on muster rolls in exchange for a cut, or of contractors employing contract labour instead of local work-seekers, have also come to light.
The audit found “delay (in) payment, no attendance entered in muster roll at worksite, no material supply despite payment made to vendor, wage payment done without work” and “work not found on ground despite shown completed”.
Considering that the audit was not limited to a few work sites, it was conducted in roughly a fourth of the state’s panchayats — these findings, and the questions they raise, cannot be easily dismissed.
MNGREGA have might have its downfalls but the advantages and opportunities created by the scheme cannot be disregarded. That’s the basic reason why NDA government decided to continue funding the scheme despite criticizing it as a failure. The new budget also raised the funding to NREGA showing full support to the rural development plan.
The government takes it on them to improvise on the drawbacks of the scheme after proper analysis based on the performance of the scheme in all these years.
Social Auditing creates accountability of performance, especially towards immediate stakeholders.
Timely disbursal of Funds and mandatory compensation in case of any delay.
Regular DATA collection and evidence-based policy decisions to address the existing inefficiencies like duplication of card, unpaid work.
Use of ICT tools like GIS, Satellite imagery, Geo-tagging etc. for new asset creation.
Combine minimum wage with CPI-rural for better inflation targeting as recommended by many states.
With proper planning, good coordination by the government engineers, and strict monitoring of funds, this scheme will not just be good for employment in rural areas but also for creation of asset which has been its major drawback.