MGNREGA Irregularities

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    In News

    • Recently, the central government wrote to Jharkhand asking it to ensure strict action for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) irregularities.

    Recent Issues

    • Workers:
      • According to the findings, more than 1.59 lakh workers were listed in the records but around 75 percent of them were missing from work sites. 
    • Machines:
      • Also, machines were used for work meant to generate jobs for people and beneficiaries were found to have struck deals with contractors to use their names on muster rolls in return for a cut from direct money transfers. 
      • Contractors were found to be using contract labour instead of local work-seekers.
    • Misappropriation of funds:
      • Rs 935 crore misappropriated in NREGA schemes in the last four years.

    MGNREGA

    • About:
      • It is a poverty alleviation programme of the Government of India, which provides the legal Right to Work in exchange for money to the citizens of the country.
      • On average, every day approx. 1.5 crore people work under it at almost 14 lakh sites.
    • Aim:
      • It aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
    • Funding: 
      • It is shared between the Centre and the States.
      • The Central Government bears 100 per cent of the cost of unskilled labour, 75 percent of the cost of semi-skilled and skilled labour, 75 percent of the cost of materials and 6 percent of the administrative costs.
    • Latest Budgetary Allocations
      • In the Union Budget 2021-22, the government allocated Rs. 73,000 crore for the MGNREGA.
      • It is nearly 34.5 per cent lower than the 2020s revised estimates of Rs. 1.11 lakh crore. The budget estimates were around Rs. 60,000 crore but had to be enhanced as the national lockdown happened.
      • This year’s budget was kept low assuming that the economic recovery would alleviate the need for such spending.
    • Features:
      • Legal Right to Work: 
        • The Act provides a legal right to employment for adult members of rural households.
      • Women:
        • At least one-third of beneficiaries have to be women. Wages must be paid according to the wages specified for agricultural labourers in the state under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.
      • Time-Bound Guarantee of Work: 
        • Employment must be provided within 15 days of being demanded to fail which an ‘unemployment allowance’ must be given.
      • Decentralised Planning: 
        • Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) are primarily responsible for planning, implementation and monitoring of the works that are undertaken.
        • Gram Sabhas must recommend the works that are to be undertaken and at least 50 per cent of the works must be executed by them.
      • Transparency and Accountability: 
        • There are provisions for proactive disclosure through wall writings, Citizen Information Boards, Management Information Systems and social audits (conducted by Gram Sabhas).

    Significance

    • It is a social security scheme to generate employment for the rural poor and ensure livelihood for people in rural areas.
    • The scheme sees large-scale participation of women, Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) and other traditionally marginalised sections of society.
    • It increases the wage rate in rural areas and strengthens the rural economy through the creation of infrastructure assets.
    • It facilitates sustainable development which is very clear by its contribution in the direction of water conservation.
    • Over the last 15 years, three crore assets related to water conservation have been created through the rural jobs scheme with the potential to conserve more than 2,800 crore cubic metres of water.

    Challenges

    • Low Wage Rate: These have resulted in a lack of interest among workers making way for contractors and middlemen to take control.
    • Insufficient Budget Allocation: The funds have dried up in many States due to a lack of sanctions from the Central government which hampers the work in peak season.
    • Payment Delays: Despite Supreme Court orders, various other initiatives and various government orders, no provisions have yet been worked out for calculation of full wage delays and payment of compensation for the same.
    • Corruption and Irregularities: Funds that reach the beneficiaries are very little compared to the actual funds allocated for the welfare schemes.
    • Discrimination: Frequent cases of discrimination against women and people from the backwards groups are reported from several regions of the country and a vast number goes unreported.
    • Non-payment of Unemployment Allowance: There is a huge pendency in the number of unemployment allowances being shown in the Management Information System (MIS).
    • Lack of Awareness: People, especially women, are not fully aware of this scheme and its provisions leading to uninformed choices or inability to get the benefits of the scheme.
    • Poor Infrastructure Building: Improper surveillance and lack of timely resources result in poor quality assets.
    • Non Purposive Spending: MGNREGA has increased the earning capacity of the rural people but the spending pattern of the workers assumes significance because there is hardly any saving out of the wages earned.

    Suggestions

    • There is a need to carry out social audits as per rules and effective implementation of the delay compensation system.
    • The participation of women and backwards classes must be increased by raising awareness and making it more inclusive.
    • Also, the people should be sensitised to do away with the discrimination against them.
    • Reasons for poor utilisation of funds should be analysed and steps must be taken to improve them. 
    • In addition, actions should be initiated against officers found guilty of misappropriating funds.
    • Villages must also be allowed to take control of their own water security, noting that catchment areas for many villages are on land controlled and owned by the Forest Department.
    • The frequency of monitoring by National Level Monitors (NLMs) should be increased and appropriate measures should be taken by States based on their recommendations.

    Source: IE