Has MGNREGA assets benefitted the beneficiaries? A reality check

NREGA assets have been at the centre of debate for quite some time. There has been a widespread perception that creating assets under MGNREGA meant nothing beyond `` digging holes’’ .

The scheme was recently shown in a bad light with the prime minister describing it as the ``living reminder’’ of UPA’s failures. However , evidence from recent studies suggest that many meaningful assets have been created under MGNREGA. A recent study conducted by IGIDR, which examined 4100 assets across 100 villages of Maharashtra found that around 90% of the users of these assets found them very useful or somewhat useful. Some recent field visits conducted by us across various parts of India also revealed that MGNREGA assets have significantly transformed the lives of the rural poor by making vital contributions in advancement of agriculture, rural connectivity and infrastructure. In this report we intend to share the experiences of some beneficiaries who have benefitted from MGNREGA assets

Farm Pond

Farmponds built under MGNREGA has immensely benefitted agriculture and has become a strong alternate source of income for many beneficiaries. With fisheries department providing fish seeds and fish feed under convergence, fish cultivation is thriving in many parts of the Tamil Nadu .The ponds have also turned out to be a blessing for agriculture as it has led to significant rise in water table in agricultural lands.

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Land Levelling

Bundelkhand is one of the most drought prone regions of Uttar Pradhesh. Hilly and uneven terrain makes agriculture a challenging task here. Hence land levelling works undertaken under MGNREGA here are of utmost importance. In one of the panchayats we visited- Maudehat in Mauranipur block, Jhansi- these works have immensely contributed to the livelihood of the natives as they could efficiently transform some barren patches into productive agriculture lands.

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Wells constructed under MGNREGA have contributed immensely for the enhancement of agriculture. We came across some onetime migrant labourers whose barren lands were transformed into productive agriculture lands with the construction of these wells. Wells also seem to have a positive impact on farming period. Some farmers who used to cultivate only during one season in the past testified that after the construction of the wells they started cultivating at least two seasons a year

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Rural Connectivity

Roads under MGNREGA have helped rural populace attain connectivity in diverse means. When it has helped them to gain better access to agricultural lands in some regions, in other areas, it became an enabler to mitigate social exclusion by providing marginalized communities a better reach to certain key areas of social importance.

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Different states have adopted different models for growing and maintaining plantations under MGNREGA. In states like Madhya Pradhesh, community plantations are very beneficiary centric ie the income from yields is shared among the labour groups who maintain them. However, in states like Tamil Nadu, they are treated as an alternate source of income for the panchayats. In Madhya Pradhesh ,plantations under MGNREGA have also become a good source of income for individual beneficiaries as plantation works here are undertaken not only in public land but also in private agriculture land.

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Watershed projects

Watershed related projects undertaken under MGNREGA seem to have immensely benefitted the farmers. Many farmers testified that some assets like farm ponds, irrigation tanks etc. have helped to increase the ground water level in agriculture lands and have served as effective water scarcity solutions. We came across many farmers who reaffirmed that they have started engaging in agriculture for longer periods after the completion of these projects.

Panchayat Service Centres

Panchayat Service centres to hold gram sabhas and public meetings have also been constructed under MGNREGA. We visited one of these centres in Pudukudi panchayat, Lalgudi block,Trichy. The centre which was well constructed with an estimated amount of Rs 14, 43,000 had two toilets and 3 rooms