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Implementation of Employment Guarantee: A Preliminary Appraisal
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has so far posed no problem for the budget. Its allocation is only marginally higher than what was spent in the past by the government on various rural employment programmes. It is a demand-driven scheme and it has fallen far short of meeting demand in some states. The fund utilisation ratio also varies widely across states.
budgetary incidence and spatial dimension of the progress of implementation of the Act across states in India. It is to be noted that this is the first full year of operation of the NREGA and the data used does not cover the entire year but is based on the monthly data of the first few months provided on the progress of implementation of the NREGA (see http:/ /nrega.nic.in) by the ministry of rural development. Our analysis is based on the data provided up to August 2006. Subsequently the reporting format and data availability have changed. Due to this, data used for the calculation of various indicators of performance is restricted up to August 2006. Therefore, our conclusions are tentative, based on the preliminary findings on the progress of the NREGA. The article is organised in four sections. Section I discusses the budgetary incidence of the NREGA. In Section II, the issues related to implementation and NREG funding are discussed. Section III undertakes a detailed empirical analysis of the spatial dimension of implementation. Based on the findings, conclusions are drawn in Section IV.
Though the Act has been passed and implemented, the issue that remains pertinent is the implications of such a large and open-ended commitment for managing the revenue and fiscal deficits especially in the context of the obligations under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act. Based on available data, we tried to examine the NREGA-induced fiscal strain in the current fiscal year by comparing the budget burden of other employment programmes (self- and wageemployment) prior to the NREGA and NREGA allocation. As can be seen from Table 1, though the central government mobilises around 10 per cent of GDP as revenue, and the size of the government expenditure measured as a percentage of GDP is around 15 per cent, direct expenditure on rural employment constituted 0.2 per cent of GDP in 1996-97, which declined to 0.13 per cent of GDP in 2001, at a time when human deprivation increased in rural India. Thereafter, although there was an increase in the direct expenditure on rural employment to 0.40 per cent of GDP, it tended to decline and fell to 0.33 per cent of GDP in 2006-07, even with the introduction of the NREG programme. In other words, in the past without the NREGA, the government had allocated a higher amount of resources in terms of proportion of GDP for rural employment programmes in India. In terms of the share in the central government’s budget, the NREG scheme has made no difference to government expenditure on rural employment programmes (REP). As may be seen from Figure 1, expenditure
he National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) was enacted in 2005 to provide a minimum guaranteed wage employment of 100 days in every financial year to rural households with unemployed adult members prepared to do unskilled manual work. In the past, public employment programmes in India targeted at the poor are generally identified with poverty alleviation. The NREGA goes beyond poverty alleviation and recognises employment as a legal right. The only example of guaranteed state-sponsored employment in India is the Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Scheme, which was enacted and implemented under extraordinary circumstances of severe drought in the state during 1970 to 1973 as innovative anti-poverty intervention [Dev and Ranade 2001]. Just as the NREGA provides opportunities for the rural households, to an extent a livelihood security, it presents formidable challenges in implementation. It also needs to be mentioned that the programme is to gradually expand to cover more districts – leading to increased outlays – and there will be much learning by doing in such a major programme. This article, based on the state-wise employment demand-supply data and the use of funds released under the NREGA by the central government, examines the
Table 1: Key Budgetary Indicators to GDP Ratio
(Per cent) 1996- 1997- 1998- 1999- 2000- 2001- 2002- 2003- 2004- 2005- 200697 98 99 2000 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 Revenue receipts Revenue expenditure Expenditure: MORD Rural employment Total expenditure 9.27 8.83 8.59 9.37 9.22 8.87 9.41 9.56 9.80 9.87 10.32 11.67 11.90 12.49 12.86 13.30 13.28 13.79 13.12 12.31 12.47 12.49 0.58 0.56 0.55 0.48 0.43 0.59 0.74 0.70 0.58 0.78 0.81 0.24 0.23 0.21 0.19 0.13 0.20 0.40 0.37 0.23 0.33 0.33 14.76 15.31 16.05 15.39 15.58 15.95 16.25 17.08 15.94 14.40 14.43
Source: Union budget documents (various issues).
Economic and Political Weekly
February 17, 2007
But the share of SGRY allocation declined sharply thereafter with a corresponding increase in the allocation for the National Food for Work (NFFW) programme. This implies an inbuilt structure of incentive for performance and disincentive for non-performance for the state government. These do not seem to be working too well. The authority entrusted with the implementation as laid down indicates that a coordinated approach of different tiers of governments or vertical coordination is critical for successful implementation of the scheme.4 0. the SGRY allocation declined from Rs 9. the gram sabhas are given the power to conduct a regular social audit of individual schemes.1 13. In absolute terms.7 0. Individual state governments will also set up their State Employment Guarantee Fund to make a matching contribution under this scheme.0 47. the flow of resources from higher levels of the government to the panchayats needs to be assured according to the demand. 2006-07 (B) February 17. the horizontal coordination across departments for programme identification and execution of work through the panchayat assumes critical importance. as the inability to provide employment would require the state government to pay an unemployment allowance for which there is no contribution from the centre. as the inability to provide employment on demand will impose the burden of compensation in the form of unemployment allowance on the state government.0 35.0 100 200607 4.0 33.7 100 200203 4.2 0. As it is a demand-based provisioning system.0 0.2 100 2004.639.1 16.5 11.200505 06 6.99 crore in 2003-04 to Rs 2.2 0.0 64.1 0. This becomes all the more important as there is no supply side selection of beneficiaries.2 35.0 33.6 62.5 0.00 Revenue Rev. Expenditure on REPs as a percentage of revenue and expenditure of the government declined sharply in the first three years of the current decade with a marginal increase in the year 2005-06 (RE) and 2006-07 (BE). 2007 549 .1 100 200304 4.0 100 Source: Union budget documents (various issues). Failure to fulfil these requirements may result in an imprudent use of funds.8 19. The agencies involved are central employment guarantee council.170 crore.4 100 4. one-fourth of the material costs and administrative expenses of the state council.0 42. Despite the introduction of the NREGA.3 to 62.3 28.4 100 200001 4. This would also require 2005-06 (R) 1996-97 1997-98 1998-99 1999-00 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 Table 2: Expenditure Distribution across Various Rural Employment Programmes (Per cent) 19992000 Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana National Food for Work Programme National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme Other Expenditure Total 13. The responsibility of the gram panchayat is the identification. Exp. Also. up to three-fourths of the material costs of the scheme including wages to skilled and semi-skilled workers and a certain percentage of the total cost determined by the centre. Thus. district programme coordinator and the programme officer appointed by the state government and the gram panchayat.0 55. the central government will set up a National Employment Guarantee Fund. individual states will have to evolve a well coordinated approach to equate supply of employment in accordance to the demand. As specified in the act. The NREGA provides for a multi-tier structure of authority for implementation and monitoring of the scheme with specified functions and duties for each authority.700 crore in 2006-07 (BE). execution and supervision of projects as Economic and Political Weekly per the recommendations of gram sabha (village assembly). The NFFW programme was stopped with the introduction of the NREGA in 2005-06. A sharp decline in SGRY allocation is evident in the year 2006-07 with a corresponding increase in the share of allocation under the NREGA.1 0. state employment guarantee council. The total NREGA allocation in the year 2006-07 is only Rs 10.Figure 1: Budgetary Incidence of Rural Employment Programme: 1996-97 to 2006-07 (Per Cent to Revenue and Expenditures) 6. there is a need to design a monitoring mechanism by strengthening the institutional structure at the local level so that resources can be used optimally. Thus.0 0. Allocation under the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) declined sharply over the years. it is necessary to evolve a clear mechanism of flow of funds as needed according to the demand rather than through the normal bureaucratic procedures.3 42. for the purpose of funding and the implementation of the NREGA. Rec Receipts Revenue Rev. Implementation Issues It is also surprising to find that the NREG scheme has not been able to provide the employment that one would have expected in poor states that has largely to do with implementation and funding.00 2. In other words.2 7.2 15.00 4.5 33.1 23.9 5. no appreciable spurt in government expenditure on REPs is noticeable. The funding pattern as laid down in the Act specifies that the centre’s obligation would be to make payments of wages for unskilled manual workers under the scheme.00 0.1 per cent between 1999-2000 and 2003-04. Expenditure Total Total Exp.3 56.5 32. The state government shall bear the cost of the unemployment allowance.0 41. It has been specified in the Act that “if an applicant under this act is not provided such employment within 15 days of his application seeking employment”. with a corresponding increase in the share of Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (SGRY) from 23.4 100 200102 4. It requires an in-depth understanding of region-specific labour demand and its seasonality so that a demand-based scheme of projects can be implemented at a frequency matching the demand for work instead of relying on supply side provisioning. For accountability and transparency purposes. s/he shall be entitled to a daily unemployment allowance which will be paid by the state government.
88 100. Chhattisgarh.73 13.62 21.76 6.14 101.53 NR 18.39 13. NR: Not reported Source (basic data): http://nrega.93 92.48 50.98 24.00 100.22 NR NR 32.41 0.38 0.96 48.10 6. Orissa.35 2.90 NR NR 9.23 67.64 NR 91.43 2. As it stands now.20 40.04 0.51 29.29 125.57 1.38 3.34 64.62 98.16 35.06 95.71 27. These are also pre-dominantly rural and 53. under the scheme funds will be released based on the annual work plan and budget proposal (AWPB) by the states.02 NR NR 26.47 2. In order to examine the performance of the NREG scheme implementation.65 79.57 Household numbers pertain to Census 2001.07 100 Spatial Dimension As mentioned earlier.54 10.30 NR NR 44.60 87.65 32.14 334.33 298.44 NR NR 78.58 15.58 4.73 119.95 per cent of the rural below poverty line (BPL) households reside in these 119 districts.62 NR NR 10.78 51.06 0.02 36.34 378.09 NR NR 20.89 NR NR 111.64 NR NR 6. The demand and supply side 23 22 19 20 18 11 6 10 13 5 6 6 2 1 2 12 7 1 3 3 2 1 1 1 1 2 2 200 Table 4: Enrolment and Provisioning: Statewise Comparison States are in Ascending Order of Per Capita Income General Category States Bihar Uttar Pradesh Orissa Jharkhand Madhya Pradesh Chhattisgarh Rajasthan West Bengal Andhra Pradesh Karnataka Tamil Nadu Gujarat Kerala Punjab Haryana Maharashtra Special Category States Assam Manipur Jammu and Kashmir Uttaranchal Meghalaya Arunachal Pradesh Tripura Sikkim Nagaland Mizoram Himachal Pradesh All States Notes: EG Enrolment as Per Cent of EG Provisioning as Per Cent of Rural Rural BPL Number of Rural Rural BPL Number of Households Households Applicants Households Household Household Enrolled 22.89 26.87 1.nic. This distribution pattern of districts in terms of rural BPL households evidently reflects the intentions of the NREGA to attack the poverty stricken regions of the country first.34 23.20 67.08 12.52 1663.81 31.84 17.57 75.25 103.29 6. execution and supervision of projects as per the recommendations of the gram sabha and the ward sabhas and the gram sabhas are given the power to conduct regular social audit of individual schemes.14 0.00 96.56 1.34 29.88 276.03 0.93 39.04 0.39 0.99 NR NR 125.02 0.45 0.nic. of the 200 districts coming under the scheme.48 6.88 65.in 550 Economic and Political Weekly February 17.37 800.40 110.61 NR NR 119.61 297.13 52.06 100. spread of banking. As the capacity to formulate AWPB by the states is low in poorer states.25 390. the actual release may fall far short of potential demand for funds.15 5.28 100 Distribution of Rural BPL Households 20.47 13. these states rank low in socioeconomic development.08 0. this scheme is being implemented in 200 identified backward districts in the country spread over 27 states.28 79.35 0.19 59.14 99.19 24.47 27.77 588.49 11.05 98.44 68.48 1.in Per Capita Income (Rs) 5606 9963 10164 11139 11500 12244 12641 18494 19087 19576 21740 22624 22776 26395 26818 26858 12247 12878 14507 14947 16803 16946 18550 20013 20746 22207 22902 17883 No of NREGA Districts Distribution of Rural Households 14.63 8. nature of rural power structure and quality of governance.32 1. As can be seen from Table 3.11 9.07 13.58 49. the number of districts to be covered in the north-east including Sikkim is only 16. Thus. Table 3: NREGA Districts: State Income and Poverty States are in Ascending Order of Per Capita Income General Category States Bihar Uttar Pradesh Orissa Jharkhand Madhya Pradesh Chhattisgarh Rajasthan West Bengal Andhra Pradesh Karnataka Tamil Nadu Gujarat Kerala Punjab Haryana Maharashtra Special Category States Assam Manipur Jammu and Kashmir Uttaranchal Meghalaya Arunachal Pradesh Tripura Sikkim Nagaland Mizoram Himachal Pradesh All States Source (basic data): http://nrega. the demand based provisioning may be potentially regressive.19 0.60 NR 7.32 24.49 85.74 664.54 NR NR 279. Panchayats are responsible for the identification. Bihar.61 16.09 0. However. 119 fall in seven states. These regions are also the most backward in terms of rural connectivity.51 0.85 66.97 23.03 222.53 1.05 92.05 80.51 96.03 0.36 92.75 2.20 NR NR 9. Jharkhand.11 0.58 44.36 13.08 7.94 42.00 NR NR 312.05 0.18 10.68 166.97 0.01 0.00 99.76 112.06 12.31 151. It should not be overlooked however that there are districts to be covered in the north-east region which have their own special problems. viz. Madhya Pradesh.14 475.00 48.49 123.80 30.55 44.40 13.83 2. Stringent conditionalities in fund release apart.05 95. Needless to mention. suitable indicators need to be developed which would reflect the demand side or the preference for the NREG scheme among rural households and also supply side performance or the performance of the government.68 NR NR 23.coordination between providing work and the provisioning of funding. In these districts panchayats are the principal agency through which the Act is being implemented.13 5. 2007 .72 66.74 12.26 7.25 0.06 0.41 109.94 4.77 40.10 0.46 11.30 35.44 NR 3.81 57.02 0.27 264.19 50.12 333. Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.45 241.14 0.60 NR NR 35.73 per cent of the rural Indian households and 67.98 124.11 130.97 100.42 82. in some states EG enrolment to rural household ratio is more than 100 per cent.28 50.38 218.35 42.57 3.08 141.38 64.05 87.
In other words. for most other states enrolment falls far short of the demand. V Gayathri and R P Mamgain (eds). capacity building at the village level. Piush Antony.0 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 States in Ascending Order of Per Capita Income preferences are captured through the following ratios: (i) Employment guarantee (EG) enrolment as percentage of total number of rural households. monitoring [I am grateful to Amaresh Bagchi for his comments on the draft and M Govinda Rao for very helpful discussions on implementation of NREGA. The third ratio will show the suppliers response to demand for enrolment for employment guarantee. New Delhi. It is also to be noted that enrolment for the NREG scheme far exceeds the number of BPL households in Economic and Political Weekly most states.0 30. EPW Email: pinaki@nipfp. Mahendra S and Ajit K Ranade (2001): ‘Employment Guarantee Scheme and Employment Security’ in S Mahendra Dev. Devolution of responsibilities and strict accountability norms would accelerate capacity building at the level of the panchayat and the scheme can effectively function as a demand-driven one. if the second ratio is greater than one. If we look at the fund utilisation ratio defined as the fund allocation to actual utilisation. Usual disclaimer applies. There is an urgent need for both vertical and horizontal coordination across levels of governments within the states.0 20. panchayat level preparation of labour budgets would go a long way for effective implementation. The trend line plotted through the scatter shows a positive slope implying that the states with higher per capita income could manage to spend more.] Reference Dev. It needs to be mentioned that the data provided in the latest report on NREGA published by the ministry of rural development also indicate that the fund utilisation ratio remains as low as 51 per cent even after the completion of one full year of operation of NREGA. The first two ratios will reflect the coverage of the schemes among the BPL and non-BPL households. followed by Karnataka. Summing Up The above analysis indicates that the existing institutional arrangement in poorer states is not good enough to implement the NREGA in an effective manner. (ii) EG enrolment as a percentage of rural BPL households. In assessing the demand for labour. It is evident from Table 4 that EG enrolment as a percentage of rural households enrolled for NREG scheme varies widely across states. it needs to be emphasised that better coordination by the levels of governments with the gradual expansion of the programme covering more districts would lead to increased outlays and one would hope that the programme effectiveness will increase with experience. Keeping the spatial dimension of the implementation in mind. Social and Economic Security in India. (iii) EG provisioning as a percentage of number of households enrolled. particularly in poorer states. The third ratio will show the suppliers’ response to demand for employment vis-à-vis enrolment. There should also be an oversight mechanism to guard against the possibility of the intention of the NREG scheme being frustrated through “elite capture” by panchayats whether by the ruling party cadres or through domination of castebased politics.0 0. The gram sabha can play an active role in the planning. It is also to be noted that while for Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat the supply of employment has met the demand. right to information to enable social audits effectively.0 40.0 10. (iii) EG enrolment as a percentage of application for enrolment.15 per cent. Bihar and Jharkhand. If we look at NREG enrolment as a percentage of the number of applicants. there is no significant alteration of the pattern observed in earlier months. Economic and Political Weekly available at A H Wheeler Bookstalls Western Railway Borivli to Churchgate February 17.0 Punjab 60. it is abysmally low in Maharashtra. accountability of functionaries and an effective grievance redressal mechanism assume critical importance.org. Institute of Human Development. the importance of the smooth flow of funds for implementation of projects in accordance with the demand. (ii) EG provisioning as a percentage of rural BPL households. However. In other words though there is improvement. The issue of a job card or enrolment is a prerequisite for NREG employment. The utilisation ratio is particularly low in poorer states. and supervision of projects.0 (Fund Utilisation Ratio Chhattisgarh Madhya Pradesh Rajasthan Andhra Pradesh Karanataka Karnataka Orissa Jharkhand Utttar Pradesh Bihar West Bengal Tamil Nadu Gujarat Hary 50.Figure 2: NREG Fund Utilisation Ratio: An Interstate Comparison 70. The supply side performance is judged also in terms of three following ratios: (i) EG provisioning as a percentage of rural households. It is to be noted here that enrolment for a employment guarantee does not necessarily mean provisioning of employment. except for Bihar and Jharkhand. As the scheme is self-selecting in nature. it would imply that non-BPL households are also enrolling for the NREG programme. only 50 and 80 per cent of BPL households could obtain NREG enrolment. Enrolment is done based on an application to the panchayat for a job card by the person demanding employment. 2007 551 . The all-state ratio is 79. The first two ratios will reflect the preference of the households (non-BPL and BPL) for NREG employment. In Bihar and Jharkhand. only half the total available funds were utilised during the year. it is again low in poorer states in the country (Figure 2).in. In many places panchayats do not have the necessary capacity to manage the schemes and capacity building ought to take place at the panchayat level.
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