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Govt wary of floating central job scheme in poll season

NREGA could ease state’s financial burden, but without year-long job guarantee, might invite flak. Dharmendra Jore reports.
By Dharmendra Jore | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2012 01:29 AM IST

The state cabinet is delaying adoption of the central act that grants employment to rural Maharashtra fearing backlash from voters in the upcoming zilla parishad and municipal council polls. Several ministers believe that the Central act is less charitable than the one introduced by the state to guarantee employment to rural families.


Maharashtra pioneered the Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS) in the 1970s. The scheme runs on funds created by taxing employed citizens and traders. The government makes a contribution equal to the net taxes and levies collected each year. The Centre's own legislation — the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) 2005 - is modelled on the EGS. But many in the state government are against implementing the central act in its totality. The resistance comes from the several differences between the EGS and the NREGA. While the EGS offers any unemployed unskilled person a job for all 365 days in a year, the NREGA assures work to a rural family for only 100 days in a year. The Centre limits the scheme to rural areas, but the state scheme covers semi-urban areas in addition to rural pockets.

The subject was to be discussed at Tuesday's cabinet meeting, which was put off by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan because of political compulsions.

A senior minister in the state government told HT that the state needed to increase unemployment allowance for those who are unable to find work despite the various provisions made in the two acts. “Unemployment allowance in the NERGA is 1/4th the wage rate for the first 30 days, and then ½ of the wage rate (Rs30) for the remaining 70 days. But state EGS offers only Rs10 per day,” the minister said, requesting anonymity. With the election code of conduct in place, the minister was unable to come on record. He added that he state should also clarify in its new act whether machines could be allowed on job sites. The state EGS prohibits machines on certain sites.

A source in the employment department said that the minister in-charge has suggested that urban sectors in which employment could be guaranteed for a certain number of days annually be identified.

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