The Systematic Destruction of MGNREGA
(With inputs from Communications Team of the AICC)
[I] Background/ Context
Ever since the BJP Government came to power it has been undermining the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Program, a flagship scheme of the UPA Government that helped lift tens of millions out of poverty.
[II] Proposal to Reduce Wages
Despite objections by senior officials and leading civil society organisations, Nitin Gadkari has ordered far-reaching changes in the scheme which has provided seasonal work to one in three rural households in the last eight years.
A leading Daily_ has reported:
“Documents obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by activists show file notings by a senior official in the ministry arguing that Gadkari’s announcements run contrary to the “spirit of the Act” and that reducing the wage component of the total funds allocated for the scheme would lead to a 40% fall in jobs, affecting five crore rural households.”
Gadkari’s response (recorded on the file) to this legitimate concern is that reducing the wage component “is reflective of the view of the legislature” and it should be “brought about immediately”.
[III] Protests by Civil Society
RTI activists Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey have written a letter to the Prime Minister voicing their concerns against this blatant attempt to dilute a scheme that has improved the lives of millions. This open letter has been signed by more than 200 personalities, including economists, women’s activists, lawyers, former bureaucrats and others.
Former member of the Planning Commission member, Abhijit Sen, has said that the creation of assets under MGNREGS was nine times more than the earlier Jawahar Rozgar Yojana although spending in both as a proportion of GDP was about the same.
[IV]Other Problems under the BJP viz. MGNREGA
Increase in delay in payments. More than 70% of the payments are delayed demonstrating the priority this Government affords to Rural Development.
Dilution of the Act by permitting salaries under the 40% material component (this means that money which was earmarked for the purchase of materials can be used to pay salaries)
Use of machines is now being allowed. Permitting use of machines will bring contractors into the Scheme and this will open up the scheme to manipulation.
Limitation of the Scheme: The focus of the Scheme is now only on 2500 blocks.
Further dilution through a change in labour material ratio. This upsets the balance with which the UPA Government had implemented the Act so as to ensure that money is not siphoned off for false material expenses.