That MNREGA had been a bête noire for BJP is a well known fact because it had been one of the most successful schemes implemented by Congress Party after the ‘Panch Varshi Yojna.’ The MGNREGA represented a milestone in social policy and employment creation with its right based approach and focus on livelihood security. It has benefitted millions of marginalized rural households by providing them unskilled work. It has helped in slowing down the migration from rural areas to cities in lean agricultural seasons.
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was enacted in September 2005 and launched on 02.02.2006. It was initially implemented in six districts, viz., Cuddalore, Dindigul, Nagapattinam, Sivagangai, Tiruvannamalai and Villupuram. It guarantees 100 days of employment in a financial year to any rural household whose adult members are willing to do unskilled manual work. This Act is an important step towards the realization of the right to work. It is also expected to enhance people’s livelihoods on a sustained basis by developing the economic and social infrastructure in rural areas.
Under the scheme the Village Panchayat issues job cards to every registered individual. Payment of the statutory minimum wage and equal wages for men and women are the notable features of the scheme. The cost of the scheme is shared between the Centre and the State in the ratio of 90:10. The Central Government bears the entire cost of wages for unskilled manual workers. That includes 75 percent of the cost of material and wages for skilled and semi-skilled workers and Administrative Expenses. The State Government bears 25 percent of the cost of material and wages for skilled and semi-skilled workers.
The scope of activities encompasses a broad spectrum of labor oriented developmental works in almost all productive processes of the nation. However, the Priority of works included a) Formation of new ponds. b) Renovation of existing Ponds, Kuttais, Kulams, Ooranies, Temple tanks etc. c) Desilting of channels. d) Desilting and strengthening of bunds of irrigation tanks. e) Formation of new roads. f) Other water conservation/soil conservation measures/flood protection measures. Till 31 Jan 2011, about 82% of the work force comprised women and 56% were Scheduled Castes.
According to UNDP Carnegie Endowment for Peace, MGNREGA job creation programs helped in acceleration from less than 1 billion workdays distributed amongst 20 million households to 2.5 billion workdays for 50 million households from the scheme’s first year of operation in 2006-2007 till 2010-2011.
So when the Prime Minister derided and took a dig at Congress for the scheme in Parliament in the following words:
“You may say that I do not have wisdom in some areas … But at least I do have some political wisdom … How can I shut down this scheme? MNREGA is a living example of your failures.”
MNREGA would continue with “honour and dignity”, Modi said, adding he “will keep beating the drums that you formulated for the poor (the scheme) to force them to continue to dig holes in the ground even after 60 years of Independence. You have done a good thing by leaving your footprints which people should know. I will ensure that MNREGA is never discontinued. It is the biggest example of your failings. After so many years of being in power, all you were able to deliver is for a poor man to dig ditches a few days a month. My political sense says never scrap MNREGA.”
It is not fair if a common man asks the PM why he wants to wants to continue a scheme which his political sense contemplated as the biggest failing of Congress Party? A failing, by definition, is an act that incurs negative consequences or harm. Just to expose the opposition party that brought Independence for the nation, in poor light, is never an act of wisdom. One can term it revenge or avenge. So the PM would never stop MNREGA. Why to carry on a program that had not been in the interest of the nation? Does it make any real sense or logic??
That the new government has been biased against MNREGA was evident in the way it has squeezed the scheme of funds. Data available in national press showed that as of mid-December, barring five states, all others had received significantly lower funds from the centre under the scheme in 2014 as compared to the previous year.
In a civilized world there is concept of ‘Dignity of Labor.’ Digging trenches is not a dishonest profession. Why someone should think that digging is unnecessary and reprehensible act? Every work can’t be done with machine. Someone has to do some works manually. An unskilled individual also needs two square meals and a loaf of bread or rice & curry to feed the family. Even in the richest countries some people have to do the hardest manual jobs. Do you want to call these jobs menial? My conscience say – We shouldn’t look down upon them.
Another interesting observation was also made by the PM. “We were with you when you passed the Land Bill, we knew you were rushing through it with an eye on political gains.” Does this statement tell anything about the quality, merits or demerits of ‘Land Bill?” Why should someone be an accomplice in an act that fails the standards of political and moral correctness?
While the Prime Minster said good things about Clean India and corrective suggestion for Land Bill, a portion of his speech was controversial and unjustly provocative that could have been avoided.
By: Naim Naqvi