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MGNREGA helps in reducing poverty, says study

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (2005) promises 100 days of wage employment in each financial year to rural households. A recent study shows that it is because of this scheme that there is a notable reduction in poverty in India between 2004-05 and 2011-12.

15in_village_694702f26,000 rural households were interviewed twice- in 2004 before MGNREGA was introduced and later in 2011, after the introduction of the scheme. The survey was carried out by IHDS, Indian Human Development Survey.

IHDS, in a report released on Wednesday, has found the scheme to have reduced poverty among participant households to 31%. Out of the entities interviewed, 30% of them participated in the scheme along with 21% non-poor rural households.

Contradictory to the popular view that MGNREGA has raised rural wages, the study points to the fact that wages indeed rose sharply from 2004-05 to 2011-12, but the wage rate growth in high-level participation of MNREGA and low-levels of it, are almost the same. The issue that this report highlights is that women empowerment has come ashore because of this Act. For nearly 45% of women work under this scheme. Most of these women were disguised 21iit4

employed or unemployed in 2004-05. MGNREGA enabled 49% of women to have their own bank accounts in 2011-12.

As a result of this, the report also noted a significant reduction in borrowings from moneylenders and encouraged self-reliance among MGNREGA participants.

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A voice of his own: Rahul Gandhi tries to impress Lok Sabha with his speech

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Rahul Gandhi
Image source: wordpress.com

New Delhi: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s oratory skills seem to be taking a much-desired shift as he gave a fiery 31-minute animated taunt at the government, mixed with sarcasm and humour yesterday. Gandhi has been ridiculed for his drab speeches since a long time now.

There was often deft silence, repeatedly disturbed by loud jeer from the treasury benches, when the 45-year-old Gandhi scion tore into the government over various issues in the high-ceilinged precincts of the Lok Sabha.

He poked a finger and perhaps touched a raw nerve when he sarcastically referred to RSS ideologue Veer Savarkar and slammed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for following him. The BJP members heckled back, objecting to his remarks.

“I said (Mahatma) Gandhi is ours, Veer Savarkar is yours. Am I wrong? Have you thrown Savarkar away? Good for you,” Gandhi said, with a grin, as he intermittently looked at a paper on which he apparently had written his talking points.

He wore a clean-shaven look, a white kurta pyjama, appeared calm, made frequent eye contact with MPs, moved his hands freely with strong gestures. Congress MPs cued him on various issues that the party needed him to speak on. But he remained undistracted.

He apparently didn’t bother about details and fumbled many a time, giving his detractors a reason to boo at him. But he took the criticism in his stride without getting overwhelmed.

“I am not from RSS, I commit mistakes,” said Gandhi, often derided for his alleged lack of knowledge and not so good oratory skills.

Even some BJP members, including Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, could not help but smile back at him while Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha clapped at least once.

Gandhi rode roughshod over the ruling party for its criticism of the previous Congress government.

“Modiji said I have not seen a scheme as bad as MGNREGA. But (Finance Minister) Arun Jaitley came to me and said that it’s a very good scheme. I told him, why don’t you say this to your boss? When money was allotted to MGNREGA, I closed my eyes and thought it was (P) Chidambaram, (the former finance minister during the Congress government), presenting the budget.”

His colleagues burst into laughter amid bouts of protests from the other side of the house. He lashed out at the government’s measures as an “assault on democracy”.

“Modiji is a very powerful man. Everybody feels a bit scared of him. But we should ask him questions. You should also ask,” he told BJP MPs. (Sarwar Kashani, IANS)

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MGNREGA to employ at least 52 million Indians in the next 20 years

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Image source: nregs-mp.org/

New Delhi: There is a 14-percent rise in the programme run under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the 2016-17 Budget, the world’s largest state-run jobs plan, after a decade of operation continues to be India’s top poverty mitigation programme.

MGNREGA, which guarantees 100 days of work to unskilled people in villages of India, will employ at least 52 million people and provide livelihoods to their families. That means about 260 million (considering an average family of five) will depend on it over the next 20 years, according to an analysis.

In three years MGNREGA funding has raised up to 18%. Unlike last year, though, when the programme exhausted its money by December, it is unclear what might happen this year when — which is more likely than if — the money runs out.

In 2015-16, there was a cushion of Rs5,000 crore in case the ministry over its money, but New Delhi released only Rs.2,000 crore of that money, according to Aruna Nikhil Roy of the People’s Action for Employment Guarantee, a Delhi-based NGO.

More Indians are still poor than the population of Indonesia. The unqualified number of poor as well as the proportion of poor below the poverty line (according to the Tendulkar poverty line) has been declining over two decades, as we reported.

But about 270 million are still below the poverty line, more than the population of Indonesia (255 million), the world’s fifth-most populated country. The poverty line is the ability to spend Rs.47 per day per person in urban areas and Rs 32 in rural areas.

MGNREGA is being lauded for its achievements in the past decade. Around 277.9 million people are registered under the scheme, and 98.3 million of them are active workers. The programme covers all adults from rural households who seek employment.

The “work” under MGNREGA covers “unskilled manual labour”, providing an opportunity to every person who needs employment. Without skills, young Indians in rural areas will need MGNREGA.

To know exactly how many Indians will need employment in the coming years, the illiterate rural population was scrutinised, according to the 2011 census. There are 51.7 million illiterate people aged 16 to 30.

Since they will not benefit from the Right to Education, which guarantees free and compulsory elementary education till age 14, this population will not be a part of India’s skilled labour force.

According to this International Labour Organisation definition, skills require at least five years of schooling. So, for at least 20 years, MGNREGA will likely need to support this group of Indians.

A word of caution: This 52 million (rounded-off) population includes only illiterates from the Census 2011 data. There are many among the literate population who have basic reading and writing skills but are not skilled enough to work in industry.

MGNREGA critics contend that the scheme does not help pare poverty because of corruption and poor implementation. “From a policy point of view, we should be interested in the efficiency of transferring incomes to the poor,” economist Surjit Bhalla wrote in a column recently.

With no cost-benefit valuation of MGNREGA work and no technical support, the programme struggles to create assets or infrastructure in rural areas, which it should, Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi) economics professor Reetika Khera, wrote in a recent column.

MGNREGA is short of funds- 17 percent of its budget went into paying wages and material from the previous financial year, according to a letter from Ministry of Rural Development to the Ministry of Finance.

The actual allocation for MGNREGA this year is around Rs.29,000 crore ($4.6 billion).

This fund squeeze for MGNREGA is not new and has been evident under both the United Progressive Alliance II and the National Democratic Alliance regimes. Ending the year with pending obligations, which effectively means workers’ wages are unpaid, has been a consistent trend.

As much as 95 percent of the budgetary allocation for the current financial year (2015-16) was exhausted by December 30, 2015. Further, as per the Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Finance calculations, state governments require at least an additional Rs.6,300 crore to pay wages and other expenses.

The drought-affected states of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh will provide 150 days of employment against the normal 100-but there is no extra money evident, from Delhi or in their budgets.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s budget for MGNREGA may not be enough. Under the devolution recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, India’s states have been given more money, and hence more powers, to decide how they want to finance social welfare.

The one-time Planning Commission had 66 centrally sponsored schemes, reduced to 30 under the NITI Aayog, the body that has replaced the Planning Commission. MGNREGA is one of these 30.

Even though the central government has transferred social welfare to the states through “devolution” (transfer of powers-fiscal or administrative-from higher level of government to lower level of government), it will pay for important programmes, such as NREGA and rural roads.

Jaitley said in his budget speech: “In spite of the consequential reduced fiscal space for the Centre, the government has decided to continue supporting important national priorities such as agriculture, education, health, MGNREGA, and rural infrastructure including roads.” (IANS)

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MGNREGA workers to get funds directly

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

The union cabinet on Wednesday approved the direct release of wages to workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme to increase overall efficiency in its implementation.

Sources said the decision will benefit all stakeholders and workers will be assured of payment of wages on the second day of the pay order generation.

The cabinet meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sources said that despite implementation of the electronic Fund Management System (e-FMS) earlier, delays were recorded in the release of funds.

They said that following the decision, gram panchayats will be empowered to take up work according to the agreed labour budget without struggling for the release of funds.

Sources said the Centre will gain by releasing what is actually expended and there will be greater transparency in the movement of funds and lesser corruption.

MGNREGA aims at enhancing the livelihood security of the people in rural areas by guaranteeing 100 days of employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.