Lok Satta Junction

For better governance in India.

NREGA: The Good and The Bad

with 4 comments

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA, also known as National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, NREGS) is a legislation enacted in Indian parliament on August 25, 2005. The NREGA provides a legal guarantee for one hundred days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage. While its goals of providing for the enhancement of livelihood security of households in the rural areas are laudable, it is not entirely clear if it is the right way to go about it.

The Good:

In the words of its main proponents, Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey, transparency and accountability to the poorest and the weakest is in fact the biggest potential contribution of the NREGA to the entire governance system. The NREGA is also an outstanding example of how the RTI Act can be woven into the fabric of the delivery system and the whole legal and governance paradigm. Further, NREGA has found enthusiastic supporters in the rural areas and has been responsible for better wages for the poor in general. In the words of journalist Sainath, despite complaints of rip-offs and payment delays, “with better wages, the bargaining power of the weakest has gone up a notch. For some, their access to costly services like health has risen slightly. NREG work has been a life jacket in the flood waters of the price rise. And no other program has had the positive impact on distress migrations that it has achieved.”

The Bad:

Despite its progress in improved implementation and governance, the NREGA still has to deal with the corruption and other improprieties that have come to be associated with any Govt. program in India. The CAG review said in as many as 70% of the villages checked, there were no proper records available on number of households who demanded jobs and the actual number of people who benefited from the job guarantee scheme. Hurdles to its implementation apart, the main criticism, however, is of the idea itself. The idea of NREGA has been accused of as just income redistribution and hence might cause inflation. Inflation in 2008 did hit a 3-year high with the wholesale price index hitting 7% for the year upto March 22, 2008. How much of it is due to NREGA is however not clear, as record prices of rice, wheat and other foodstuff, along with the sky-high oil price, have fanned inflation worldwide in 2008.

There is some truth to the criticism that this act is just a way of redistributing the income rather than making any lasting improvements in the rural infrastructure. Even its main proponents are silent on the details of the infrastructure projects successfully completed through the program and the benefits of such projects to the local communities. A majority of the supporters only show its effectiveness in improving governance procedures and making people aware of their rights. This is, however, more an offshoot of the successful implementation of the Right to Information act in the NREGA program than the NREGA itself.

A focus on channeling the work to beneficial and durable infrastructure projects would create a great difference to the lives of the poor in the long term, rather than a focus on just distributing the money. Otherwise, it would just create a long term dependency among the poor on the largesse of the Govt. If the works are only of marginal importance, and involve mainly the equivalent of digging and filling the ground, it would be such a huge waste of human potential and resources.

As the article in WSJ points out, “India needs these safety nets for those who truly require them. But the government would do far better to focus on making more lasting improvements in rural lives so that the NREGA and its kin become less prominent in the next five years, not more. Ideally, these welfare programs should be sought by fewer and fewer people as investments in infrastructure, training and services kick in.”

Update: A vote bank called NREGS – “With the new changes in store, chances are the rural jobs scheme will become a vehicle for gigantic expenditures in the name of the poor with very little money actually going to the poor.”

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Written by jujung

June 27, 2009 at 12:44 PM

Posted in Criticism, Ideas, India

Tagged with , , ,

4 Responses

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  1. […] a comment » The Congress governments are using the NREGA to benefit their party members and supporters. It has been transformed from a Govt program to a […]

  2. hey m really sory 2say but this scheme z not atall gud…gud for those who r illiterate n dnt hav jobs bt bad fr industrialists etc cz dere labour z leaving their industry jst coz dey know dat they can get wrk in nrega..dats bad…

    if govt really wanted to do something good for the ppl den dey shud keep this nrega scheme for those ppl who r fully illiterate & dnt HAVE ANY WORK TO DO…..

    INSTEAD OF DOING THIS GOVT WANT TO DO GOOD OF VILLAGERS N ILLITERATES ETC BUT DOING “”WORST””WITH THE INDUSTRIALISTS….

    SO ITS A REQ TO WHOSOEVER GETS MY POINT OF SAYING ALL DIS DAT DIS Z NOT BAD SCHEME IF DERE COMES SOME RESTRICTIONS N TERMS ETC N IF NOT THEN ITS BECOMING HEADACHE FOR OTHERS CZ 85% OF PPL(VILLAGERS ,ILLITERATE ETC)WANT ENOUGH MONEY BUT WIDOUT WORKING HARD N DATS WAT DEY ACTUALLY SAY DAT V DNT AHV TO DO ANYTHING IN NREGA CZ V PICK LESS STONES ETC N SITS AWAY….

    SO PLZZ GET DA POINT N DO GUD >>>NOT FOR 50% POPULATION BT 100% CZ DATS WAT A GOVT Z MEANT FOR…

    THINK ABOUT EVERYONE>>DAT IS DA BEST RESPECTFULL DECISION

    THANX

    dia

    May 12, 2010 at 9:19 AM

  3. According to me narega scheme is not helpfull😭😭😭

    radhika

    November 28, 2016 at 1:15 PM

  4. Bakwaaaaaas narega

    radhika

    November 28, 2016 at 6:40 PM


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