Right to Work

One of them is the MGNREGA or Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

The Act was passed with the objective of providing employment (and wages) to rural labourers, who have no alternate source of employment (especially in the slack season).  Employment would be provided on infrastructure projects such as irrigation and roads, with a particular objective of building assets in support of rainfed agriculture. MGNREGA also therefore becomes a means of creating productive assets in the rural economy.

There have been many poverty alleviation programmes, which involve the rural labour force for building rural infrastructure, productive assets to trigger development. Also there have been many programmes especially the relief works to provide work opportunity to the unemployed. These two commonly used measures have been beautifully combined to form the Employment Guarantee Scheme.

The wages give purchasing power in the hands of the poor. The Works provide productive assets to the poor. These are rural poor dependent on agriculture economy. They are involved in dry land agriculture leaving them unemployed for most part of the year. The dry land agriculture needs support through many ways. Water and Soil conservation; water bodies like percolation tanks, check dams, minor irrigation directly gives support to the local agriculture. Roads are necessary for ushering development. These sectors do not interest private investment. These are the part of the important intervention areas for the Government for rural, agriculture economy. This is the mandate of the Government and has to be accomplished by the Government and through Government agencies. This is the role and responsibility of the Government. And if these essential productive public goods are possible if combined with unskilled employment of the same area then this is golden opportunity.

Right To Work:

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005

Ministry of Rural Development, India.

महात्मा गांधी राष्ट्रीय ग्रामीण रोजगार हमी योजना


In spite of these good features of the Scheme, the reach and demand of this scheme is not as per the perceived need. The uptake is low.

The reasons are many; leakages, apathy of the Government machinery are present here too as across other developmental programmes. But for this particular Scheme, our observations based on tenyears years of experience are that the Scheme is not being implemented properly. Government does not respond timely, as per rules in the stipulated period to the demand by the needy labourers. Payments are not done on time and the payment procedure lacks transparency. Most of the rules are not adhered to and Works are completed or even left incomplete. Labourers are the most vulnerable, voiceless section of the society and are unaware of the benefits, legal provisions available as part of this Scheme. Hence there is no demand side pressure on the Government to comply to the implementation rules, regulations and procedures as laid down by the Act.

So the irony is that there are malnutrition deaths, there is forced migration which adversely affects the schooling of the children on one side and on the other side there is underutilization of funds available for this scheme in the same regions!

The non implementation of MREGA is not only because of corruption, though this is the most perceived factor. The important factor is that there are Systemic problems in implementation which support the apathy of the implementers. But since the corruption factor has been highlighted consistently the other important factors have not been considered very seriously.
Though the Act is compact and well defined for the labourer, the problem persists. So, this brings us to the need of addressing the issue related to the systems, procedures, rules adopted during various stages of implementation. 

Our Intervention 

We derive our experiences related to implementation of the Scheme in multiple ways.
By building awareness about the entitlements, the procedures and rules to the villagers so that they can access the Scheme which is meant for them.

By training couple of youth from each of the villages in villages so as to enable them to get the Scheme implemented in their village and monitor its implementation.

Villagers and Village volunteers provide the valuable feedback at each step of implementation. The feedback thus received provides clues to the obstacles in implementation, which are expanded to do simple brief studies to understand a particular problem.
Equipped with the feedback and the studies we take up meetings with the local administration, district and if need be with the State Government. Sometimes the issues do not get resolved even at State Government then it needs to be taken to the Ministry of Rural development which is responsible for this Scheme. These interactions with the Government at various levels gives insights as to the problems, constraints and way ahead to solve the problems.

Since MGNREGA is a huge programme in its promise and reach out, working on its functioning gives insights and solutions about the overall Governance environment. Hence bringing about desired changes in implementation of MGNREGA has the potential to make a dent on the Governance of Schemes for the poor in general.