India Together: NREGA: A fine balance - 13 July 2008

file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Administrator/Desktop/Navjyot...

INDIA

TOGETHER

The article you are about to read was made possible by regular, voluntary contributions from readers like you. These contributions help keep this publication independently strong and directly answerable to you. We invite you to become a contributing reader, and help us continue to bring you high-quality, in-depth reports and views Please support India Together. Recommended annual support: Rs.1000 More information | Contribute now

1 of 7

3/3/2010 7:45 PM

India Together: NREGA: A fine balance - 13 July 2008

file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Administrator/Desktop/Navjyot...

NEWSLETTER DIGITAL EDITION PLEASE CONTRIBUTE

INDIA
Tue 02 Mar 2010 HOME POVERTY

TOGETHER
The news in proportion. OPINIONS
EMPLOYMENT GUARANTEE

SEARCH

SUPPORT

NEWSLETTER

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. P Sainath reports.

Employment Food security Housing Land Microfinance Urban poor

13 July 2008 - "Why can't they keep the schools open during summer," asks P. Somamma in Mosangi. A strange question, with the mercury blazing past 43 Celsius in the Nalgonda village and all of us cowering in the little shade we can find. "Why would you want to send the kids to school in this heat, Somamma?"

• • • • • •

Write the author P Sainath Employment Andhra Pradesh Send to a friend Printer friendly version

"At least there," she says, "they got one decent meal a day. I can't afford to give them one now, during the vacation." In Kondapur in Mahbubnagar district, Bharatamma echoes that demand. "When the schools are closed, there is no mid-day meal. That means, instead of getting to eat, the children 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 really go 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 at school to food at home. "It was better," he says. "We got dal, rice, tomatoes, rasam, even eggs." Much of that is beyond his family's reach now. If he and his family are able to pull on at all, it's because of the work the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act brings to their village. In Mosangi, there is bitterness over how it has worked. In Kondapur, where it has done better, there are some complaints. Yet, in the eyes of all them, this is the most 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 person returning 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 this time. Two of these are built into it. "Why only 100 days of work," ask people. And they do not get those 100 days fully. The second is the rule of only one member per family being able to use it. In Andhra Pradesh, very sensibly, field assistants at NREG sites are breaking 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 to work and another to the site," says Lashkar in Lambapur village. Splitting up is bad economics. A day's wage at a brick kiln might be less than what it is for NREG work. But though 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 people say they badly need. Third are the usual local problems. Payment delays for one. Though Andhra Pradesh seems to be ahead of several other States, this remains a problem. "People here have waited four months to get much less than what was owed to them," says Mallamma. "People are recorded as working when they did not work. Others are not recorded as working when they did," says B. Ramaiah in
"Why only 100 days of work," ask people. And they do not get those 100 days fully. Cheque Card Bank

RSS Feeds

In India India Together 1677, 17th Main JP Nagar II Phase Bangalore 560078

Outside India India Together PO Box 26254 San Diego CA 92196 USA

Charge to your credit or debit card using the secure e-payment gateway of PayPal from anywhere. Contribute now HDFC Bank Account Number 01332000003849 Account name: Civil Society Information Exchange Account type: Current A/C J P Nagar Branch, Bangalore IFSC code: HDFC0000133
Articles in related topics FOOD SECURITY - Food sovereignty, not just security - Global leadership, empty stomachs - Custodial malnutrition in M.P. - Driven to bondage and starvation LABOUR - An independent voice for workers - Beyond the Clemenceau's recall - Wages: Too little, for too long - Court rules, Clemenceau recalled ANDHRA PRADESH - The honest leftist - AP coast: fishermen marooned - The importance of Hyderabad - The empire flows again

SERVICES

Advertise Contact Us Newsletter Submit

• They lock on to the NREGA • NREGA hits buses to Mumbai

RECENTLY IN INDIA TOGETHER

2 of 7

3/3/2010 7:45 PM

India Together: NREGA: A fine balance - 13 July 2008

file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Administrator/Desktop/Navjyot...

Vadlaparthi village of Nalgonda. Lambapur in the same district throws up this kind of paradox. This is a village where NREG work has dramatically curbed migrations. There is no one who will tell you things have 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 audit would conclude there has been a disaster. But Lambapur has done well out of the NREGA. To make it more complex, the reverse could be true in Mosangi. The records would show Mosangi has done better, which it has not. Everywhere is the backlash from the 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 unions of landless labourers, many have worked hard to promote the programme In this process, a small but vital reordering of power relations is under way. The NREGA is having multiple and layered effects. With better wages, the bargaining power of the weakest has gone up a notch. For some, their access to costly services like health has risen slightly. NREG work has been a lifejacket in the flood waters of the price rise. And no other programme has had the positive impact on distress migrations that it has achieved. Lakshmamma hopes the NREG work will continue. But she's up against a powerful combine of forces entrenched in the countryside and ensconced in Delhi's power elite. (Picture by P Sainath) "It is not just low level officials," laughs a very senior official in Delhi. "There is hostility right here at top levels of bureaucracy and politicians. There are efforts on to make it less attractive to people needing work. Complaints that the NREGA is raising wages and hurting farmers are being used to push for limiting that wage. And making even those 100 days of work harder to access. This would be disastrous. But it seems certain such efforts will soon follow." "Of course, there is much scope for improvement," he says. "You could get people to participate more in choosing the 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 it more universal." And by aligning it to works that benefit the whole community, including local farmers, some of those other problems could also be met. In Tatikolu village, Lakshmamma hopes the programme will continue. She is up against a powerful combine of forces entrenched in the countryside and ensconced in Delhi's power elite. A widow with young children, she finds it hard to get work at the site to begin with. Seated in her bleak home, she wonders when her food supply will run out. And hopes 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 the nature of the development debate on food, hunger and rural development in the Indian media. • • • • • • The knowledge economy and the knowledge society • Organic veggies in my Inbox • Penury and peril from the Narmada's waters • Bhor: After a long, dark night • Narmada dams continue to roll over the rules • Reasons for the Bt Brinjal moratorium • Educating India • A serpent in paradise • Implement the UNCRPD, say activists • Blast bole and bloom together? • Child labour in Gujarat's cottonseed farms • A new home, but in a nala! • Farm suicides: A 12 year saga • Climate sceptics get it wrong • The nation as a person • A spate of witch-hunting assaults in Assam • How they pulled their farm back from the brink • Meandering an important course • Boxing their way forward • Nearly 2 lakh farm suicides since 1997 • First in RWH, but not self-reliant yet • Gandhi: Man with a vision • Watching prices rise, helplessly • Male, but marginal • Lokayukta slams mining in Karnataka's forests • Surgical strikes: Missing the mark • CIC orders publication of PDS details • Human rights amidst terror • A lifetime's harvest lost to the dam • In Bihar, a new twist to social audits • Bilal: The darkness within • India's missteps at Copenhagen

Write the author P Sainath Andhra Pradesh Employment Reprint permissions

Comments (20)
Posted by Sidhartha, I understand the idea of job creation for the poor. However, I am not convinced

3 of 7

3/3/2010 7:45 PM

India Together: NREGA: A fine balance - 13 July 2008

file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Administrator/Desktop/Navjyot...

that this kind of work is not feeding on the desperate conditions and poverty. Posted by nawal srivastava, The article is a moving account of truth prevailing in rural India. Despite all the criticism of the scheme, which is not based on sound research, this article tells the utility of the NREG for a poor man in a remote corner of the country. The need today is to generate economic opportunities in rural India where vast potentail remains untapped. NREG can resolve two dilemmas of employment generation and development activities in rural areas. Posted by Anand Gupta, I'm pleasantly surprised that your team did not find anyone talking of corruption in NREG local implementation. If indeed people get Rs.80-85 for a days work within their village, and 30-40 days work, it is indeed laudable. Posted by jitendraa, I am complaining about NREGA in Rajasthan, Bundi panchayat samiti talera. No facility is being provided by the controller to the NREGA technical staff like water to drink, table and chair to sit, no stationery has been provided, no lockable storage has been provided to keep safe the muster rolls and measurement books and other important documents like estimate etc. there are 3 chair and 2 tables for 7 peoples and one computer with no printer and no window. Nobody wants to listen, and says 'just relax'. Posted by Vispi Jokhi, NREG is a success of UPA government albeit it leaves scope for improvement. Empowering the Panchayats to distribute work is needed to make it better. Posted by radhakrishna, I visited anantpur disrict and some villages where NREGS was launched. people rememebr you . Posted by Kuku, It's heartening to see some good effects of this scheme but the problem with such schemes are that they are decided by people sitting in Delhi or even Hyderabad(or any state capital) who are disconnected from reality. I'm not trying to dismiss them - but a case study in one village or one area doesn't imply its good for all villages and all areas. Any long term solution would have to empower the villages and its inhabitants ie. Swaraj as proposed by Gandhiji. Posted by known, Socialism = Preventing Race to the Bottom Capitalism = Promoting Race to the Top We need both (either implicitly or indirectly) for a nation to succeed! Posted by Surya Prakash Loonker, Finally, i can see a positive article about some govt scheme from India Together. NERGS is a wonderful scheme which is benefitting millions and I am glad finally someone had the guts to say govt is doing good work. Every scheme or work has problems, private or govt, does not mean you keep bombarding every govt initiative as a bad thing. Thanks to P Sainath. Posted by Ram Krishnan, NREGA was started in the tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu in its 3rd phase in April 2008 See 2 pictures here. http://akash-ganga-rwh.com/DSC01476.JPG http://akash-ganga-rwh.com/DSC01477.JPG I have personally see many such projects, creating water flow channels to collect rainwater. When any program in India has even a 10% success, I think of that as a 'roaring success', since others are merely plans on a Spreadsheet in Delhi. I also hear that in some cases the daily wages are deposited in the bank ccounts, thereby eliminating the possibiliy of stealing by the intermediates. Posted by RAJENDRA, It reminds me of the work giving tactics of digging a hole uptil the noon and then filling the hole by sunset just to give wages to the needy. The programe can be sustainable economically, like what shivakashi did in the fire works industry, or how surath imports dimonds polishes them and sends back. So can we have some high earning works like embroidary,or readymade garments or even making papads or hand made stuff snacks being produced by these people in Anathapur and Mahaboobnagar.I think where ever human jobs

4 of 7

3/3/2010 7:45 PM

India Together: NREGA: A fine balance - 13 July 2008

file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Administrator/Desktop/Navjyot...

are absolute necessary these folks can be trained and these products can be marketed with zero duties then i think it will be much better. I learnt that inmates of Tihar jail are bringing out very good products then why not these folks. Posted by BHAVIL, After going through its various pros and cons I must say that it has become a necessary evil. Not only in AP but also in M.P. it has achieved substantial success. Now its been more than 2 years that NREGS was implemented nad later got converted to NREGA. However no one can deny that this fact that it has brought some winds of change in rural India although this act has been cursed by various factors.Having worked for an NGO in Jharkhand I experienced that it is working in such a backward state although mauled by various factors, I also encountered various caveats in a form of slogan like "NREGA KAREGA TO MAREGA" Although not a ardent supporter of UPA govt but this scheme is slowly and slowly changing the face of rural India although in a limited domain. Posted by satider, nerga not yet start in our village(dalam) block dera baba nanak Posted by vb dandapani, I am interested in getting data about Athmakur Mandal, reg.(i)area of barren land (ii) number of persons holding such lands (iii) average number of dependents of such landholders and (iv) problems pertaining to irrigation of these lands. Posted by Arun Kumar.B,

NREGA is proved itself as a good programe for the rural through its launch in other districts also. The prime factor, that is transperancy is maintained in the Job card and wage payment, NREGA will be a mile stone Posted by Rajesh, In my Openion for Nrega:- Kya baat hai sarkar ki Job bhi diya to aisa ki hum T.A. na gar ke hai na hi ghat ke.Sarkar ki Planing to jabardast hai but kamiya hajar.phayda to sab Pradhan Uthata hai or hum Technical Hand ko Kiray per liye ghar ane jane ka kharch bhi nahi milta hai, to bhi aash laga bhaithe hai. amayar Tumko batadu 3Months ho gaye honge join kiye.7000/- se Upper to aise hi kharch ho gaye or abhi tak aas ka ek tinka bhi nahi mila. aise me yadi koi pariwar wala ho to kya kare ga khud khushi wo bhi hoga. Posted by Usman, @ BHAVIL Having worked in Jharkhand myself i must add this to what you've quoted. This was said by a worker of an NREGA work "narega karega to marega, nahi karega to bhi marega". I wouldnt agree that its become a necessary evil. i think its better to look at it as a programme with immense potential but severely hampered due to the dilapidated implementation and administrative structures which continue to prevail. Means and methods need to be deviced to better its working. There is also another very important aspect of the NREGA which i find wasnt quite mentioned by Sainath (and this is not a criticism, but an addition to what he's said). The NREGA has also had profound impact in empowering the people by way of giving them the power to decide what works are to be undertaken and where in the village. Though this doesnt hold in all places(that i have seen), in places it does it has had some amazing effects. See for instance the case of Pati block in Badwani district of MP. This feature of the people deciding through their gram sabhas has really added very significantly to the process of democratization where it matters, in the local community. There is a pressing need to educate people about the misguiding remarks that surface in the corporate media declaring the NREGA a waste and a failure. Posted by Gaurav Singhal, Searching on internet, found this news about NREGS: Times of India, 26 March 2009 CAG review had found major gaps in NREGA functioning Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had found that there was no data on the number of people who demanded jobs and who actually benefitted. The CAG review said in as many as 70% of the villages checked, there were no proper records available on number of households who demanded jobs and the actual number of people who benefited from the job guarantee scheme. The survey was initiated in 2006 and completed late last year.

5 of 7

3/3/2010 7:45 PM

India Together: NREGA: A fine balance - 13 July 2008

file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Administrator/Desktop/Navjyot...

In 26 states, 558 village panchayats were identified for the survey spread over 68 districts and 141 blocks. Surprisingly, the report said in many cases, it found that jobs were allocated on "verbal basis" and no documentation was available with the village body. However, the fact-finding revealed that in 340 villages in 24 states, no such meetings were conducted, neither was there any documentary evidence available in this regard. No door-to-door survey was conducted in these villages to identify persons. To prevent any leakages, the government had launched a drive to allocate unique identity numbers to job applicants. However, out of 558 gram panchayats checked, it was found that in 331 of them, unique identity numbers were not allotted. A similar survey conducted by CAG in 2007 on the effectiveness of the Centre's Public Distribution System, through which it gives subsidised foodgrains to poor, revealed that 40% of beneficiaries were kept away from the scheme by denying them ration cards and 99% of those who availed the benefits reported they had not received foodgrains regularly. Posted by debasis behera, Dear friends, NREGA is a bonanza for all. It helps the poor people to get some money (may be less then they deserve)who were not getting anything earlier. It also helps the babus and netas to collect huge sum through this scheme. It also helps us –the so called civil society people to argue in favor or against the scheme or do research on it for money. So never oppose the scheme and just carry on the great tamasa. Posted by shailender thakur, The success of NREGA completely depends on honesty of pradhan and concerned administrative agencies. In our village Lech block mehla distt chamba H.P the scheme became a good source of collecting and amassing money. There is about RS/200000 of financial irregularity only through job-cards, proved by enquiry done by BDO MEHLA on complaint of villagers on dated 14/5/2008 to D.C chamba. Till date no action has been taken by concerned authorities up to Director, panchyati raj shimla. The well known reluctance and illegal favouritism of administrative agencies really helps pradhans to increase their bank balances nevertheless. [logon ki garivi mite na mite pradhano ki garivi pucca mit jaegy] Post a comment
Note: Your comment will appear within 24 hours unless found inappropriate (spam, netabuse). See policy

Name:

Email Address:

Note: If you do not wish to post a public comment here and instead want to write a letter to the author directly, use the Write the author link that follows the author's byline at the end of the article.

URL:

Remember personal info? Yes No

Letter:

For verification, please enter the security code you see below

View posted letters (20)
Note: Your post will appear within 24 hours unless found inappropriate (spam, netabuse). See policy

Comments powered by Movable Type 2.64

© Civil Society Information Exchange Pvt. Ltd., all rights reserved. Home | About us | Overview | Support | Contact Us | Disclaimer

6 of 7

3/3/2010 7:45 PM

India Together: NREGA: A fine balance - 13 July 2008

file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Administrator/Desktop/Navjyot...

7 of 7

3/3/2010 7:45 PM

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful