UPSC MAINS SOCIOLOGY SYLLABUS
Paper 2 – Section C – Social Changes in India
(ii) Rural and Agrarian transformation in India:
- Programmes of rural development, Community Development Programme, cooperatives, poverty alleviation schemes.
- Green revolution and social change.
- Changing modes of production in Indian agriculture .
- Problems of rural labour, bondage, migration.
The central government has withheld release of Rs 7,500 crore in MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) funds to West Bengal for a year now over “non-compliance of central government directives”, a report said. A whopping Rs 2,744 crore of the Rs 7,500 crore are due in MGNREGA wages to workers, who have not been paid since December 26, 2021, the report by research non-profit Libtech India stated.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), also known as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) is Indian legislation enacted on August 25, 2005. The MGNREGA 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. The Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), Govt of India is monitoring the entire implementation of this scheme in association with state governments
RELEVANCE OF MGNREGA
One in four persons lives below the poverty line in rural India. Ever since the launch of this scheme in 2006, it has changed the nature of the rural labour market. It gave an opportunity to rural households to earn minimum income by getting job cards under this scheme. Moreover, the scheme is inclusive — with higher participation of women and SC and ST individuals. Today, about one in two jobs created under the scheme is for women and about 40 per cent for SC/ST. For many women, it is a first-time earning opportunity as well as a chance at empowerment.
MGNREGA AND FINANCIAL INCLUSION
Payments under the scheme today are mostly by way of direct transfer into beneficiary accounts — which in turn forced people to open 10 crore new bank or post office accounts. The newly opened accounts have aided access to bank credit. Some studies even point to improved education for children in MGNREGA households.
ROLE OF MGNREGA IN POST-PANDEMIC TIMES
The current pandemic has led to loss of livelihood of substantial sections of the India population. With the economy, particularly production activities in the big urban centres, having come to a standstill, a process of reverse migration to villages took place. This decline in economic activities is taking place against a background of continuously declining growth rates that the nation has been witnessing over the last three years.In this context, public and policy attention has returned to MGNREGA, India’s rural employment guarantee programme. One school of thought is that expanding the scale of work under MGNREGA will enhance purchasing power of the rural poor and, through a ‘multiplier effect’, could allow the economy to revive.
MGNREGA was designed as a demand driven-programme. According to the guidelines of the scheme, all households demanding employment under MGNREGA are entitled to receive a maximum of 100 days of employment. However, gaps exist between the number of households that demanded employment and those that received it, every year. Power relations of local governments, shortages of staff, capacity issues have put brakes on employment generation under the MGNREGA.
- The low wage rates have resulted in lack of interest among workers in working for MGNREGA schemes.
- MGNREGA’s success at the ground level is subject to proper and uninterrupted fund flow to the states. Thrice in the last year and once this year, funds have dried up in states due to lack of “mother sanctions” from the Central government which hampers the work in peak season.
- The ministry withholds wage payments for workers of states that do not meet administrative requirements within the stipulated time period (for instance, submission of the previous financial year’s audited fund statements, utilisation certificates, bank reconciliation certificates etc).
- The increase in corruption and weakening accountability has roots in the excessive dependence of implementation of MGNREGA on technology (real-time MIS being one of them). There is a growing pile of evidence on how real-time MIS has made MGNREGA less transparent for workers, reduced accountability of frontline functionaries and aided in centralisation of the programme.
- There are a huge number of unemployment allowances being shown in the MIS currently.
For MGNREGA, the Centre must allocate more funds in the budget since the dearth of funds could lead to halting the work, thus causing the interruption. An increase in wages can help in making the scheme more successful. Social audits, mandated by law under MGNREGA, should be strengthened to reduce the data suppression and under-representation of job demand.Local bodies must proactively reach out to returned and quarantined migrant workers and help those in need to get job cards. MGNREGA should be converged with other schemes of the government. For example, Green India initiative, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan etc.