While welcoming the government’s flagship National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to all 596 rural districts in India and enhancement of its provision from Rs 12,000 crore to Rs 16,000 crore by the Finance Minister in the Budget in New Delhi on Friday, experts called for proper implementation of the scheme.
Eminent agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan said while the NREGS had helped ensure the “minimum wage” concept in rural areas, setting a benchmark for payment in case a person was being offered less, the programme must be “intelligently networked with food management programmes.” He expected demand for grains going up as a result of more purchasing power with the rural poor.
The government must take advantage of the opportune moment and use the NREGS properly to provide at one go income security, work security and nutritional security in rural areas, he pointed out. Much would however depend upon implementation by the Panchayati Raj institutions who decide on the works, he added.
Senior advisor for Rural Development in Planning Commission Santosh Mehrotra expected a phenomenal increase in demand for work due to the spread of awareness on the programme but in order to improve the quality and durability of works professional technical inputs and enhanced administrative staffing for the programme is essential. “Only a few states had a gram rozgar sevak to supervise the work or a technical advisor at block level.”
The NREGS funding had not been increased commensurate with the almost doubling of the number of districts because the new districts to come under its purview from April 1, 2008 were not necessarily labour surplus, he added.
Senior research fellow Centre for Policy Research, Partha Mukhopadhyay said, “If the government wants to monitor the outcomes under NREGS, the single most revealing indicator would be the local wage levels. If it is at the level of NREGS then the scheme is working otherwise not.”