Tweaks in MGNREGA may help ease farm and labour crisis

  • Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 19, 2016 11:35 IST
MGNREGA workers at an excavation site in a village in Kalahandi, Odisha. (Mint File Photo)

The government should pay 25% of wages of MGNREGA workers employed in individual farms and the poor should get an option to choose between money or subsidised food grains under the public distribution system (PDS).

These are a few suggestions to be made by the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog in the occasional paper that will be discussed with the states for framing a national policy to eliminate poverty.

In the peak season, farmers may be permitted to hire workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) by paying 75% of the wages, with the balance paid by the government. “This would lead to a more productive use of labour while spreading MGNREGA wages over more workdays,” the draft of the paper says.

A senior NITI Aayog functionary explained that it can also solve the problem of labour shortage and rising labour costs for farming. “The NREGA worker will be paid market wages, which would be much higher than the government rates,” he said.

However, the NITI Aayog failed to provide an answer to how the proposal, if accepted, would be implemented. There are questions on how the government will monitor the work done and what wages will be given to the farmers.

The same paper also revives the debate over if poor households should be given an option of getting money in place of subsidised food grains. The UPA government had also conducted some pilots on money transfer instead of food grains but gave up the idea after resistance from right to food activists.

“Keeping in view that poor households lag the most in consumption of protein-rich items such as milk and eggs, it makes sense to offer them option between cash and in-kind transfers under the PDS,” the paper says.

But it fails to give a definite answer on the methodology to measuring poverty in the country.

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