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December 2, 2020

The Chhattisgarh

Beyond The Region

Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi : “Repeated attacks on employment guarantee, Modi government is the enemy from the beginning of MNREGA “

“Never deny the success of MNREGA, sometimes agree
Why does the Modi government hesitate to accept the truth. “

MGNREGA should be extended to meet the demand for mass employment.

The PM’s words have come back to haunt him. His policy and approach to MGNREGA during Kovid 19 has proved to be a living memorial of his failure ‘.

People-centric schemes like MNREGA have proved to be comprehensive and influential during KOVID-19.
So the Modi government has raised an additional Rs 40,000 crore.

  1. The Kovid-19 crisis has forced the Modi government to recognize that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), 2005, is the most effective and far-reaching tool to deal with economic challenges. In May 2020, 2.19 crore households demanded work through the Act, the highest in eight years.
  2. Prime Minister Modi criticized the MNREGA on the floor of the Parliament in 2014, calling the MNREGA “a living monument to the failure of the INC”. Today the PM must live with that short-sighted assessment, because the MNREGA is capable of combating rising poverty. Even merging programs like Swachh Bharat and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana are being merged in it to give the benefit of its utility. As of 31 March 2020, more than 12 crore people (cumulative) have benefitted from the scheme.
  1. It is the constant pressure of Congress which has now forced this government to increase the allocation over Rs. 1 lakh crore from the original allocation of 61,000 crore at the beginning of the current financial year. While the additional allocation for MGNREGA under the PM’s financial assistance package is 40,000 crores. But out of the total one lakh crores due to outstanding liabilities, only 84000 crores is effective. This should be increased in view of the need of the hour, as this amount will be less in meeting the goals of poverty alleviation.
  2. In addition, 8 million migrants are expected to move due to Kovid-19. The government has stated in the Supreme Court that 91 lakhs have been transferred using labor trains. This number is only the beginning of an exodus that is taking place across the country.
  3. Since PM Modi is forced to revert to the UPA scheme, it is appropriate that we, as its policy makers, provide him with additional guidance for the next steps.

A. The entire innovation of MGNREGA was that a statutory right to work on demand was created i.e. work could not be denied on demand for up to 100 days. Sadly, the demand for jobs is being exposed by false figures. A guarantee is a guarantee and 100 days is a statutory guarantee that must be given to anyone who asks.

B. At least, it is mandatory to free MGNREGA from budget limits for the period of Kovid crisis and beyond. After proving to be most influential in practical blaming on the ground, MGNREGA does not require a budgetary limit, as it is automatically temporally and spatially constrained by the consequences of lockdown, COVID and subsequent crises.

C) Panchayats are rounded up in terms of diversion of funds and identifying future projects. The nature of work should be left to the gram sabhas. This is all in the act, but the same must be retained both in letter and spirit. Local elected bodies understand the ground reality, the workers’ income and their needs. They know best where to spend their budget, in line with the needs of the village and the local economy. They can also help spread awareness about the program and help identify beneficiaries. The central government, which knows the reality at the ground level, should try to ensure that the gram sabhas are in fact the only bodies that make these decisions.

D. MNREGA should be made more accessible with increased workdays. The Modi government should ensure that there is no reduction in the number of guaranteed workdays available per person, as well as an increase in the total number of workdays to at least 200. According to media reports, Modi’s own government in Bihar has demanded this.

E) MNREGA cannot be an excuse for the spread of coronavirus to a large section of the population. Work sites should be properly cleaned with social distancing. On-site testing measures should also be provided. In addition, advances must be paid at least ten percent of the workday per person to act as unemployment allowances and to ensure a reduction in the probability of transmission.

  1. In light of the above, we now ask the following questions:

i. How many additional job cards (to accommodate the increase in new migrants and existing rural job seekers) have already been issued and how many people have been employed? On 8 April 2020, the Office of the Chief Labor Commissioner issued a circular to its 20 regional offices asking them to collect data on the migrants returning based on the data. This information should be made available to the public.

ii. What are the related amounts to be released to the states to meet the additional demands? According to media reports, only 1,005 and 6,756 people in BJP-ruled states such as Haryana, and Gujarat, were able to get MNREGA jobs in April 2020, respectively. People are struggling to get ration and employment in PM’s adopted village, Domri, Varanasi. If we get ahead of this situation, will the government share the relaxation in lockdown and increase in the number of people seeking jobs after the return of migrant workers in these and other states?

iii. Given that the MGNREGA Act provides special benefits for women, what special provisions have been made for women, both in the workplace and type of work?

iv. Is work being provided within 5 km radius close to home? Also, what measures have been taken to ensure that the increase in person-to-person interactions does not increase in Kovid 19 broadcasts?

v. Have all the dues been cleared from the previous financial year? 1,01,000 crores due to outstanding liabilities from last financial year has increased by only 84,000 crores. Will the current outlay be sufficient to meet the incoming demand?

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