|Protest by NREGA workers in Delhi on Sept 11|
In a shocking revelation on the implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), the apex body which represents organizations working on the rural job scheme, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, has said that NREGA budgets, which reached a peak of 0.6% in 2009-10 (as a proportion of GDP), declined steadily to 0.3% in 2015-16 and 2016-17.
This year (2017-18), the analysis, prepared by top development economist Jean Dreze, says that the "NREGA budget is grossly inadequate – while half of the financial year is left, 75 per cent of the funds allocated for this year has already been spent with no indication from the Ministry of Finance of any supplementary budget."
"The impact of underfunding is evident in the low level of NREGA employment generation: about 46 days per employed household over the past five years, or just 10-15 days per rural household", the analysis, based on official documents, says, adding, "During the same period, only about 8.5 per cent of all households that participated in NREGA were able to access 100 days of work."
|Nominal wages vs real wages|
"In the last two years, NREGA wages have increased by as little as one rupee per day in some states. Further, NREGA wages are below state minimum wages in many states, a wholly illegal situation", the analysis points out, regretting, "In 2015, the Mahendra Dev committee advised re-setting NREGA wages in line with state minimum wages, but this recommendation was rejected by the Finance Ministry."
"More recently, the issue of NREGA wages was re-examined by another committee of the Ministry of Rural Development, chaired by its Additional Secretary. The committee recommends that NREGA wages should continue to be held constant in real terms, on the odd grounds that this is a 'scientific' approach! If this happens, the entire programme is likely to fade away as workers lose interest", the analysis reveals.
|NREGA allocation as % of GDP|
"NREGA workers are entitled to compensation in the event of delayed wage payments, at the rate of 0.05% per day. Even this paltry compensation, however, is not paid", the analysis notes, adding, reasons include the Management Information System (MIS) calculates delays only up to the fund transfer order, reflecting slow bank payments", adding, worse, the block-level Programme Officers are authorized to “reject the compensation payments calculated by the MIS."
The analysis continues, "Illegal conditionalities are often attached to NREGA entitlements. Employment is made conditional on having an Aadhaar number, correctly seeded into one’s bank account. Last year, the Ministry briefly disallowed demand registration in the MIS for households whose photograph was not uploaded on their electronic Job Card. Under pressure to Swachh Bharat Mission targets, many officials even deny NREGA work to households without toilets."