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Sainath 2008 (NREGA A fine balance).pdf

Sainath 2008 (NREGA A fine balance).pdf

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India Together: NREGA: A fine balance - 13 July 2008 file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Administrator/Desktop/Navjyot...1 of 7 3/3/2010 7:45 PM
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P Sainath
Andhra Pradesh
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Printer friendly version"Why only 100 days of work," askpeople. And they do not get those100 days fully.
They lock on to the NREGA
NREGA hits buses to Mumbai
Tue 02 Mar 2010
The news in proportion.
HOME OPINIONS SEARCH SUPPORT NEWSLETTEPOVERTYEmploymentFood securityHousingLandMicrofinanceUrban poorRSS FeedsSERVICESAdvertiseContact UsNewsletterSubmit
NREGA: A fine balance
The employment guarantee in rural areas is having multiple and layered effects.With better wages, the bargaining power of the weakest has gone up a notch.PSainathreports.
13 July 2008
- "Why can't they keep the schoolsopen during summer," asks P. Somamma inMosangi. A strange question, with the mercuryblazing past 43 Celsius in the Nalgonda village andall of us cowering in the little shade we can find."Why would you want to send the kids to school inthis heat, Somamma?""At least there," she says, "they got one decent meal a day. I can't afford to give themone now, during the vacation."In Kondapur in Mahbubnagar district, Bharatamma echoes that demand. "When theschools are closed, there is no mid-day meal. That means, instead of getting to eat, thechildren go to work. How else does the family manage?" Hit by rising food prices, poor families can't afford one more meal. For those with two children in school, the costs reallygo up. When the schools are open, you can find some young ones saving a part of their meal for a hungry grandparent at home.Back in Mosangi, Somamma's son Bikshapati says he preferred the mid-day meal atschool to food at home. "It was better," he says. "We got dal, rice, tomatoes, rasam, eveneggs." Much of that is beyond his family's reach now. If he and his family are able to pullon at all, it's because of the work the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act brings totheir village. In Mosangi, there is bitterness over how it has worked. In Kondapur, whereit has done better, there are some complaints. Yet, in the eyes of all them, this is themost important programme the countryside has seen in years.There are complaints of rip-offs. "We've been paid only Rs.30 a day," says an angry P.Mallamma in Mosangi. The record says they got Rs.84 a day. K. Kalamma says she has"worked for over a month, without being paid." Even a former deputy sarpanch, Saiddulu,has not been paid for a week's work. He is well over 60 - yet another older personreturning to work, driven by food costs. But he is clear that the work the NREGA brings is"very vital to us. It should run well, that's all."
Three issues
Three major issues confront a programme that is the lifeline of these communities at thistime. Two of these are built into it. "Why only 100 days of work," ask people. And they donot get those 100 days fully. The second is the rule of only one member per family beingable to use it. In Andhra Pradesh, very sensibly, field assistants at NREG sites arebreaking that rule. It is possible to see husband and wife together at the same site.That's as far as it goes, though.Poor families see themselves as a collective. "One family member cannot go to Guntur towork and another to the site," says Lashkar in Lambapur village. Splitting up is badeconomics. A day's wage at a brick kiln might be less than what it is for NREG work. Butthough brick kilns are brutal and exploitative, all members of a family can work there -and for more than a hundred days. These two restrictions hobble a programme peoplesay they badly need.Third are the usual local problems.Payment delays for one. Though AndhraPradesh seems to be ahead of severalother States, this remains a problem."People here have waited four months toget much less than what was owed tothem," says Mallamma. "People arerecorded as working when they did notwork. Others are not recorded as workingwhen they did," says B. Ramaiah in
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India Together: NREGA: A fine balance - 13 July 2008 file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Administrator/Desktop/Navjyot...2 of 7 3/3/2010 7:45 PM
Vadlaparthi village of Nalgonda.Lambapur in the same district throws up this kind of paradox. This is a village whereNREG work has dramatically curbed migrations. There is no one who will tell you thingshave not improved. Yet, most "passbooks" show zero days of work. This is an adivasi'tanda' with very low literacy and education. The records are a mess and a formal auditwould conclude there has been a disaster. But Lambapur has done well out of theNREGA. To make it more complex, the reverse could be true in Mosangi. The recordswould show Mosangi has done better, which it has not. Everywhere is the backlash fromthe old contractor-local official-low bureaucracy that feels threatened by the NREGA.Capturing the records and the process is part of the fightback. In at least two other States, activists promoting the NREGA have been killed.
A.P. fares better 
Yet Andhra Pradesh has fared better, thanks to the growing awareness of people of their rights. Even at the start, 2.7 million people applied for job cards in the first month after the programme was announced. From top officials in the State's NREGA team to unionsof landless labourers, many have worked hard to promote the programmeIn this process, a small but vital reordering of power relations is under way. The NREGAis having multiple and layered effects. With better wages, the bargaining power of theweakest has gone up a notch. For some, their access to costly services like health hasrisen slightly. NREG work has been a lifejacket in the flood waters of the price rise. Andno other programme has had the positive impact on distress migrations that it hasachieved.Lakshmamma hopes the NREG workwill continue. But she's up against apowerful combine of forces entrenchedin the countryside and ensconced inDelhi's power elite. (Picture by PSainath)"It is not just low level officials," laughsa very senior official in Delhi. "There ishostility right here at top levels of bureaucracy and politicians. There areefforts on to make it less attractive topeople needing work. Complaints thatthe NREGA is raising wages andhurting farmers are being used to pushfor limiting that wage. And making eventhose 100 days of work harder toaccess. This would be disastrous. Butit seems certain such efforts will soonfollow.""Of course, there is much scope for improvement," he says. "You could getpeople to participate more in choosingthe kind of works needed locally. We could provide better technical support and advice.Restrictions on the number of days and family members could be sorted out by making itmore universal." And by aligning it to works that benefit the whole community, includinglocal farmers, some of those other problems could also be met.In Tatikolu village, Lakshmamma hopes the programme will continue. She is up against apowerful combine of forces entrenched in the countryside and ensconced in Delhi'spower elite. A widow with young children, she finds it hard to get work at the site to beginwith. Seated in her bleak home, she wonders when her food supply will run out. Andhopes the NREG work won't. "Without it, I don't know what we would do."
P Sainath
13 Jul 2008
P. Sainath is the 2007 winner of the Ramon Magsaysay award for Journalism,Literature, and Creative Communication Arts. He is one of the two recipients of the A.H. Boerma Award, 2001, granted for his contributions in changing thenature of the development debate on food, hunger and rural development in theIndian media.
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P Sainath
Andhra Pradesh
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Posted by Sidhartha,I understand the idea of job creation for the poor. However, I am not convinced
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