Various issues are hampering the MGNREGA Scheme [Report]

Various issues are hampering the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) scheme, according to a Parliamentary Standing Committee report submitted to the Lok Sabha.

Key-Points

Some of these issues are Fake job cards, widespread corruption, late uploading of muster rolls, huge pending payments for wages and materials, and insufficient funding.

Genuine labourers not getting their dues while the money keeps changing hands due to collusion of unscrupulous elements surrounding the implementation of the scheme at ground level is a bitter truth of the time.

The Committee said that study visits and observations had shown that “rozgar sevak-s are in the habit of filling up kachha muster at the start and go to the Block once a week for online uploading of muster-rolls”.

It noted that if the muster-roll is not updated and uploaded within the stipulated time, it could not be backdated, causing a loss in payment.

Pending wages amounted to ₹4,060 crores, while material component payments are pending to the tune of ₹9,000 crores.

The panel found it “alarming” that in such a scenario, the budget estimates for the scheme for 2022-23 were reduced from the ₹78,000 crores sought by the Department of Rural Development to ₹73,000 crores. 

What is MGNREGA Scheme?

The MGNREGA scheme is a demand-driven, legally guaranteed employment scheme that ensures at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

The scheme was approved by the UPA government in 2005 as part of its Common Minimum Programme (CMP). The idea was to provide a safety net to the rural poor and strengthen their purchasing power.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had also set up the National Rural Employment Guarantee Council (NREGC) to ensure timely payment of wages, preventing delays in implementation of projects, and suggesting measures for effective implementation of the programme.

Objectives of MNREGA Scheme

The basic objectives of MNREGA are:

  1. Generation of productive assets through creation of durable community assets such as roads, canals, ponds etc.
  2. Increase in agricultural production through land development activities like preparation of land, tree plantation etc.
  3. Enhancement of the eco-system through water conservation activities like digging new wells and deepening of existing wells. These will lead to enhancement of ground water table and more availability of water for drinking and irrigation purpose.
  4. Increased wage employment opportunities for both rural men and women, who will work within 5km from their residence to create productive assets and generate income through wage work to improve their standard of living.
  5. Social security by providing at least 100 days assured employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

Importance of MGNREGA Scheme

1. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is a historic step by the government to provide 100 days of guaranteed wage employment to every rural household in India.

2. The scheme is an attempt to help people living below the poverty line. It promises that someone who is poor and willing to do unskilled manual labour, will be provided with work that pays no less than Rs.100/- per day in rural areas.

3. The scheme mandates payment of wages within 15 days and payment of unemployment allowance in case the government fails to provide work within 15 days of application for work under MGNREGA.

4. The scheme mandates a minimum of 3/4th employment for women and provides for reservation of 1/3rd jobs for SC/ST households under MGNREGA

5. Under MGNREGA, 37 lakh hectares have been brought underwater conservation, 16 lakh individual household toilets have been constructed under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, 34 lakh man-days are generated every day which is equivalent to 12 crore man-days every year

6. It has also helped increase the purchasing power in rural areas as workers get paid daily wages through bank accounts which they use to buy commodities.

What are issues facing by MGNREGA Scheme?

This scheme has been running since 2006, but there are still many issues with it. It is the largest work guarantee scheme in the world. Here you will get to know about 10 issues facing MNREGA Scheme.

1. Lack of awareness and misuse of funds: The people who are entitled to work under the scheme are unaware about the existence of such a scheme. In addition, there is lack of awareness about how to claim their rights under the scheme. Even when there is awareness and people want to avail the benefits under MGNREGA, there is widespread apathy and indifference among government functionaries towards implementation of the scheme. Also, there have been cases where government officials have discouraged people from applying for benefits.2

2. Underutilisation of funds: A large proportion of the funds allocated under MGNREGA remain unspent. This is largely due to shortage of time for proper planning and timely execution of projects.

3. Employment not as per demand: The government has often faced criticism for failing to provide employment as per demand under the MGNREGA Scheme. The number of job seekers under the programme is increasing every year, but the government has not been able to provide adequate employment on a timely basis.

4. Low quality of assets created: The scheme focuses on generating durable assets. This is done by promoting labour-intensive methods of construction and repair of roads, renovation of water bodies, drought proofing etc. MGNREGA also ensures payment of wages within 15 days from the day on which the work was done or from the day it became due to be paid.

5. Low wages for unskilled labour: The MGNREGA stipulates that the compensation paid to workers should not be lower than the minimum wage rate. In case of delays in payment, the worker has a right to claim compensation at the rate of 0.05% per day of delay. However, there are several instances where workers have received a compensation less than their minimum wages. The Government has given states the flexibility to fix wages at a level below the statutory minimum wages.

6. NREGA does not cover all the rural poor: Several studies have shown that MGNREGA does not cover all the rural poor, and those who are eligible for it are unable to demand their rights to the job.

7. Delays in releasing payments: The problem of delayed wages has plagued MGNREGA since its inception and has been a major issue leading to criticism from activists, media and the government.

8. Corruption at various levels: Due to lack of transparency and accountability, corruption has been a major concern in the implementation of the scheme. The scheme has suffered from misappropriation of funds and the misuse of the scheme. Its not just the people, even officials involved in the implementation of the programme have been reported to have siphoned money under this scheme.

9. Linkages with other welfare schemes: Another major issue regarding this scheme is that it does not have linkages with other welfare schemes like PDS, Swachh Bharat Mission and Indira Awas Yojna.

10. Lack of transparency and accountability: Transparency and accountability are the main pillars for successful implementation of any scheme or policy in India.

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