National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme

Indian Constitution provides the right to work, but even after fifty years of framing the constitution the legislation to implement the same was not made. Now the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act(2005) passed by the Parliament and the introduction of the Employment Guarantee Scheme have changed the whole scenario. Different States in the nation has introduced the scheme with much enthusiasm.

Right to work is included in our Constitution as a fundamental right. But, not much action was taken to implement the contents in the practice, though the Constitution came into effect in 1950. This led to several struggles, within and outside the Courts, in different parts of the country. Government always showed a lenient approach towards these struggles and the demands. The passing of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (2005) (NREGA) and the implementation of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) can be considered as a partial approval of these demands. Now the Central Government have decided to rename this scheme as Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme. Perhaps, this is one of the notable development schemes implemented after independence. It is a historical and people oriented scheme. It becomes historical since it is implementing a right pronounced in the Constitution. Now this is considered as the biggest among the Union Government's Flagship Programmes. Moreover, it has been viewed as the largest labour oriented project in the world now, because of the involvement of a very large number of labour force in it.

The most important advantage of this scheme is its nature friendly approach. This scheme is designed in such a manner that it can rectify the damages, if any, made by unscientifically implemented developmental projects in the country. The major work schemes suggested in this project will help understand how this is possible. The works include soil conservation, water conservation, small scale irrigation, flood control, drought control, land development, conservation of natural water resources, deforestation and building up social assets. If actions are taken to implement projects related to these works, no doubt the face of our villages will be changing drastically.

The scheme has already proved its political importance in the last general elections. The ruling U.P.A. Government recognized the role of NREGS in the support it gained in the last election from the rural areas, which made them to take it up with more enthusiasm and renaming it as Mahatma Gandhi NREGS. Other political parties are showing more interest in the scheme because of this. Actually the parties are getting an opportunity to organize the workers in the rural areas with the help of Government funding. A minimum of ten employees are needed to implement it in locality. This calls in politics, because when people organize, politics step in.

NREGS is important in the economic sense also. In the year 2009-10 the Union Government have set apart Rs.30,000 crores for this scheme. Additionally last year's balance amount Rs. 7,000 crores is also available. Further this scheme has a special provision that if allocated amount is not sufficient to implement the scheme additional amount will be sanctioned. The aim of the scheme is to increase the job opportunities. This also shows that the political parties can make use of this opportunity to increase their base if planned properly.

As per this scheme, during a year, a minimum of hundred days' job is guaranteed to a member in a family who is unemployed. The minimum wage is also fixed under the scheme.
Government of India started this scheme in the year 2006 February, choosing 200 districts all over India, as the first phase. The second phase covered another 130 districts. It was in the third phase that all the districts were covered under this scheme.

Certain special features of this scheme are as follows.

An unemployed adult member of a rural family can submit his/her application for registering for job under this scheme in the local Panchayath.

Panchayath should give the job card with in 15 days of receiving application.
Those received job card can apply for jobs.

Proper dated receipt for this application will be issued by the Panchayath.

Within 15 days of receipt of application, job has to be provided, otherwise Panchayath has to pay unemployment wages to the applicant.

The job must be provided within 5 km. radius of the applicant, otherwise additional payment of 10% has to be made.

Wages must be on the basis of minimum wages of the area.

Men and women must be paid at the same rate.

Payment is to be made on weekly basis.

Of the total workers, a minimum of 1/3 rd must be women.

Personal comfort facilities must be provided at work site.

A job list suggested by the Panchayath and approved by the Dist. Panchayath must be available.

Priority must be given to jobs related to water and soil conservation, deforestation, land development, etc.

Wage- material ratio must be 60:40 and no contract work as well as mechanical assistance are allowed.

Social audit of the details of the work has to be done by the grama sabha (village councils).
Complaint redressal bodies must attend to such problems.

All accounts and other details of the works must be transparent and should be available for public inspection.

This programme is meant for empowering the rural population by way of providing jobs to the jobless and thereby contributing to the economic growth of the country. It provides more strength to the poor people to fight against poverty. The scheme also help reduce the destruction of natural resources and replenish the already ruined water and soil wealth of our country.

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