Skip to main content

Why condition of NREGA workers is likely to be more difficult this year


By Bharat Dogra*
Having just completed 16 years of its eventful existence, it is clear that despite several problems including underfunding, corruption and lack of adequate planning, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and the works carried under it have emerged as a significant source of employment and relief to the rural poor in India. A big asset of this Act and the scheme it creates is that it makes available work on demand within or very near to the village and so people get paid to create or improve assets that bring greater sustainability to their own villages.
The role of NREGA in helping the rural poor became even more important in COVID times when reverese migration led to a big increase in the need to increase employment opportunities in villages. Hence increasing the NREGA (or MG-NREGA or Mahatma Gandhi-NREGA) budget became an important part of the special COVID packages announced by the government during the financial year 2020-21. While the full potential of NREGA has not been realized yet nor has it functioned entirely according to legal norms, nevertheless it was nice to see the NREGA expenditure peaking at 111,000 crore in 2020-21, providing employment to about 11 crore (110 million workers) from around 75 million households ( compared to around 99 million who have active job-cards). The next year the expenditure has declined to around Rs. 98,000 crore, judging from the revised estimate, resulting in lesser employment compared to the peak of 2020-21.
Even when the expenditure peaked, we were far from achieving the legal norm of providing 100 days employment per card holding household who demands work, or making all wage payments within the legal limit of 15 days, or meeting all demands for work ( or providing compensation in lieu of this). In 2021-22 about 8.3 million demands for work, or 11% of the total demands, remained unmet. Work per household was for around 44 days, instead of 100.
So it is sad to see that for financial year 2022-23 budget estimate for NREGA has been kept very low at Rs. 73,000 crore ( one crore=10 million). According to NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, a group that has played an important role in monitoring the progress of NREGA, pending liabilities amout to Rs. 18350 crore, so actually only Rs. 54,650 crore will be available. Assuming that all card holders denand work, this group has estimated that this amount will be adequate for providing only 16 days work instead of the legal norm of 100 days.
Another group called PAEG (People’s Action for Employment Guarantee) has also done admirable work on tracking and monitoring the progress of NREGA. According to PAEG, the past deficit amounts to Rs. 21,000 crore and so in effect only Rs. 52,000 crore will be available. If the same number of households demand work in 2022-23 as did in the previous year, then PAEG estimates that it will be possible to provide only 21 days work per household instead of the legal norm of 100 days employment. PAEG has also stated that wage payment delayed for over 15 days as on Jan. 31, 2022 amounted to Rs. 3273 crore, involving about 2 crore transactions. About 11% of the job demands in 2021-22 were refused, amounting to a total of about 83 lakh work demands which could not be met. This is set to increase, keeping in view the much lower real availability of funds for 2022-23.
Thus it is clear that MG-NREGA progress this year may be full of problems. The government stand may be that allocation will be increased later at the time of preparing Revised Estimates (RE), as was done last year. But if the need for higher allocation is so clear just now on the basis of simple calculations, then why postpone this for so long? As past experience has shown, the initial low budget creates avoidable uncertainties, impedes proper planning and a time of extreme shortage appears in the middle of the year when funds are just not available even to attend to urgent demands. Besides, monitoring groups point out that while REs have raised funds for NREGA in the past two years, the increases have fallen far short of actual needs.
Keeping in view the actual needs and the legal entitlements of NREGA committing the government to meeting the demands for work, as well as the very real need for increasing employment and income opportunities in villages, a very substantial increase of NREGA budget is clearly needed.

*The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include 'Man Over Machine' and 'Protecting Earth for Children'

Comments

TRENDING

CAG’s audit report creates a case for dismantling of UIDAI, scrapping Aadhaar

By Gopal Krishna  The total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project and its cost: benefit analysis has not been disclosed till date. Unless the total estimated budget of the project is revealed, all claims of benefits are suspect and untrustworthy. How can one know about total savings unless the total cost is disclosed? Can limited audit of continuing expenditure of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), an instrumentality of Union of India be deemed a substitute for total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project of UIDAI? It has been admitted by CAG that the audit of functioning of the UIDAI is partial because of non-transparency. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India arising from performance audit of functioning of the UIDAI for the period from 2014-15 to 2018-19 is incomplete because it is based on statistical information “to the extent as furnished by UIDAI” upto March 2021. There is also a need to compa

Women for Water: WICCI resource council for empowering women entrepreneurs, leaders

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The Water Resources Council of the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry is formed for 2022-24. A National Business Chamber for Women, the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry ( WICCI ) is a premier association empowering women entrepreneurs and leaders in all walks of life through advocacy, pro-active representations to government, implementing projects for women via funds allocated by various government agencies and corporates, plus bringing awareness on all issues that concern women. WICCI boosts and builds women’s entrepreneurship and businesses through greater engagement with government, institutions, global trade and networks. WICCI enables fundamental changes in governmental policies, laws, incentives and sanctions through proper channel, with a view to robustly encourage and empower women in business, industry and commerce across all sectors. WICCI is supported by the massive global networks of ALL Ladies League (ALL), Women Eco

75 yrs of water in India: whither decentralised governance to sustain the precious resource?

By Shubhangi Rai, Megha Gupta, Fawzia Tarannum, Mansee Bal Bhargava Looking into the last century, water resources management have come a long way from the living with water in the villages to the nimbyism and capitalism in the cities to coming full cycle with room for water in the villages. With the climate change induced water crisis, the focus on conservation and management of water resources if furthered in both national and local agenda. The Water management 2021 report by NITI Aayog acknowledges that water and sustainability are of immense importance for the sustenance of life on earth. Water is intricately linked to the health, food security and livelihood. With business as usual, India’s water availability will only be enough to meet 50% of its total demand and 40% of the population in India will have no access to drinking water and sanitation by 2030 . Its Composite Water Management Index 2021 states that ‘India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and mil

Grassroot innovations in water management: Policy challenges amidst climate change

By Shubhangi Rai[1], Megha Gupta[2], Mansee Bal Bhargava[3] India despite of having a vast traditional water management history continue to struggle with water crisis from disasters like floods and droughts but more with social distress leading to asymmetric access to water goods and services. The rising water crisis in a country that is abundant in water resources and wisdom is worth questioning and resolving. The knowledge that was passed on by our ancestors who used a diverse range of structures that helped harvest rainwater locally besides replenish and recharge the groundwater along the way. Formal and informal rules were locally crafted by the community on who to use the water, how much to use, when to use, how to penalise for misuse, how to resolve conflicts and many more. As a nation, we need to revive our dying wisdom of the traditional water management systems and as water commons, enable the governing mechanisms towards sustainability. In the session on ‘ Grassroot Innovatio

Need to destroy dowry, annihilate greed and toxic patriarchy in India

By IMPRI Team Talking about an evil ever-persistent in our society and highlighting the presence of toxic patriarchy, #IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a panel discussion on Destroy Dowry: Annihilation of Greed and Toxic Patriarchy in India under the series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps on May 4, 2022. The chair for the event was Prof Vibhuti Patel, Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai and a Visiting Professor, IMPRI. The distinguished panel included – Asha Kulkarni, General Secretary at Anti Dowry Movement, Mumbai ; Kamal Thakar, Sahiyar Stree Sangathan ; Adv Celin Thomas, Advocate at Celin Thomas and Associates, Bengaluru; Shalini Mathur, Honorary Secretary, Suraksha Dahej Maang Virodhi Sanstha Tatha Parivar Paraamarsh Kendra, Lucknow and Secretary, Nav Kalyani Foundation, Gender Resource and Training Centre; and Dr Bharti Sharma, Honorary Secretary, Shakti Shalini

Impact of climate change on Gujarat pastoralists' traditional livelihood

By Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly, Karen Pinerio* We are sharing a study[1] based learning on climate resilience and adaptation strategies of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat. There are two objectives of the study: (i) to examine the impact of climate on traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Gujarat state; and (ii) to explore and document the adaptation strategies of pastoralists in mitigating climate adversities, with a focus on the role of women in it. In order to meet these objectives, the research inquiries focused on how pastoralists perceive climate change, how climate change has impacted their traditional livelihood, i.e., pastoralism in drylands (Krätli 2015), and how these pastoral families have evolved adaptation strategies that address climate change (CC)/ variabilities, i.e., traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat state. Pastoralism is more than 5,000 years old land-use strategy in India; it is practised by nomadic (their entire livelihood r

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and emerging geopolitics

By IMPRI Team In the backdrop of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, #IMPRI Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted a panel discussion on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and Emerging Geopolitics. The event was chaired by Ambassador Anil Trigunayat (IFS Retd.), Former Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Libya, and Malta; Former Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Moscow. The panelists of the event were Prof Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, Clinical Professor, Center for Global Affairs, New York University; H.E. Freddy Svane, Ambassador, Royal Danish Embassy, New Delhi; Maj. Gen. (Dr) P. K. Chakravorty, Strategic Thinker on Security Issues; and T. K. Arun, Senior Journalist, and Columnist. Ambassador Anil Trigunayat commenced the discussion by stating the fact that wars are evil. He opines that no war has ever brought peace and prosperity to any country and

Making Indian cities disaster, climate resilient: Towards actionable urban planning

By IMPRI Team  Three-Day Online Certificate Training Programme on “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”: Day 1 A three day Online Certificate Training Programme on the theme “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”, a joint initiative of the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) , Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, was held at the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi. Inaugurating the session Ms. Karnika Arun, Researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panellists. Day 1 of the program included Prof Anil K Gupta, Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi and Mr Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI as conveners, an

Gender gap: Women face disproportionate barriers in accessing finance

By IMPRI Team Women worldwide disproportionately face barriers to financial access that prevents them from participating in the economy and improving their lives. Providing access to finance for women is crucial for financial inclusion and, consequently, inclusive growth. To deliberate and encourage dialogue and discussion for growth, the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) of IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, organized a web policy talk by Mr S. S. Bhat, Chief Executive Officer Friends of Women’s World Banking India, Ahmedabad on ‘Access to Finance for Women’ as a part of its series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. The session was started by the moderator, Chavi Jain, by introducing the speaker and the discussants and inviting Prof. Vibhuti Patel to start the deliberation. Importance of access to finance for women Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Professor, IMPRI, New Delhi; Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, began by expre

Hindutva patriotism: State-sponsored effort to construct religion-based national identity

By Harasankar Adhikari Rabindranath Tagore (1908) said, "Patriotism can’t be our final spiritual shelter. "I will not buy glass for a diamond, and I will never let patriotism triumph over humanity as long as I live." Tagore’s view stands in sharp contrast to what we are witnessing today, when patriotism means religious differences between the majority (Hindu) and minority (Muslim). Our secular nation is gradually disobeying its secular nature and it is being patronised by political leaders and their narrow politics. India’s unique character of ‘unity in diversity’ is trying to be saffronised. Hindu extremism (Hindutvavadis) generates a culture of religious intolerance. Democratic India is based upon the ideology of equality of all. This nation is based upon different foundations than most of those which went before it. Its legitimacy lies in its being able to satisfy its various component communities that their interests will be safeguarded by the Indian state