[Editorial Analysis] Dialogues for democracy, lessons from Rajasthan

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: MGNREGA
Mains level: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes

Context:

• Policymakers and law-making of a government programme as much as a continuous dialogic for effective programme implementation and need for deliberation with beneficiaries.
• The implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in Rajasthan.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005

• The Act aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing hundred days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members (at least 18 years of age) volunteer to do unskilled work.

• The central government bears the full cost of unskilled labour, and 75% of the cost of material (the rest is borne by the states).

• It is a demand-driven, social security and labour law that aims to enforce the ‘right to work’.

• Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), Government of India in association with state governments, monitors the implementation of the scheme.

What are the issues?

• MGNREGA wages are now directly credited from the central government to a worker’s bank account. Introduce friction between Centre-state about wage and payment issue.

• The troubles are compounded when things go wrong as workers run from pillar to post knocking on the doors of various government officials, banks, payment disbursement agencies, panchayat officials, etc.

• There are numerous reasons as complex payment architecture that not only involves various line departments and banks but also the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).

Solution:

• To resolve payment rejections, the Department of Rural Development held numerous discussions.

• Workshop involving worker groups and civil society organisations who interacted directly with the aggrieved workers, administrative officers from the village level to the State level, and bankers.

• As the dialogue evolved, detailed guidelines were issued with well-defined responsibility, clear timelines, and monitoring and protocols to be followed by officials.

• Open communication channels, an eagerness to work with worker groups and a keen ear to the ground have benefited thousands of MGNREGA workers.

Other Issues with MGNREGA?

• A supply-based programme.
• Workers had begun to lose interest in working under it because of the inordinate delays in wage payments.
• with very little autonomy of gram panchayats.

• State governments were only interested in running the programme to the extent funds were made available from the Centre.

• Allocating work on demand, and not having enough funds to pay wages on time.

Social audits in MGNREGA are the solution:

• Social audits show how people’s participation in the planning, execution and monitoring of public programmes leads to better outcomes.

• They have strengthened the role of the gram sabha

• Social audits were first mandated by law in 2005 under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

• Subsequently, Parliament, the Supreme Court and many Central ministries mandated them in other areas as well

• Following a sustained push from the Rural Development Ministry, the CAG and civil society organisations, social audit units (SAUs) have been established in 26 States (Rajasthan, Haryana and Goa are yet to establish them

Way forward:

• With nearly eight crore migrant workers returning to their villages, and with an additional allocation for the year, this could be a moment for the true revival of MGNREGA. A revival led by workers themselves.

• To strengthening the MGNREGA would be more prudent than a targeted cash transfer plan like PM-KISAN.

• In an employment programme, adequacy of fund allocation and respectable wages are crucial, so meaningless claims of “highest ever allocation” and other dubious claims are unhealthy for democracy.

• The Central government should focus on improving the existing universal infrastructure of the MGNREGA before plunging into a programme pretending to augment farmers’ income.

• MGNREGS daily wage rate increased by Rs 20 (Rs 202 from Rs 182). This will result in a Rs 2,000 increase in annual income of workers under the schemes. NREGA workers can work on ground by following the central advisory for maintaining social distancing.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Visva Bharati, consider the following statements:

1. Visva-Bharati is a public research central university and an Institution of National Importance.

2. It was founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Answer: A

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