MGNREGA: a social safety net for vulnerable groups

National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA), which now has been re-named as Mahatma Gandhi NREGA (MGNREGA), started in September 2005.The main aim of this scheme is to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed employment and wages, in a financial year, to every household, whose adult members volunteer to engage in unskilled manual work.

The scheme is providing a strong social safety net for vulnerable groups, by providing a fall-back employment source, when other employment alternatives are scarce or inadequate. The Act seeks to strengthen the natural resource based on rural livelihood and create durable assets in rural villages. Initially, the scheme was notified in 200 districts in the first phase in 2006, and then, it was extended to an additional 130 districts, in the financial year 2007-2008.

According to the scheme, adult members of a rural household, willing to do unskilled manual work may apply for registration in writing or orally to the local panchayat. The gram panchayat after due verification, will issue job cards. The Job Card will bear the photograph of all the adult members of the household, willing to work under the scheme.

A job card holder is guaranteed by the gram panchayat of providing employment within 5 days, and if the same does not materialize, then a daily unemployment allowance as per the act, has to be made.

Mr Manuel Barretto, the Canacona BDO informed that the work provided should be within a 5-kms radius of the village. In case of work beyond 5 kms, extra wages of 10 per cent are to be paid for transportation and living expenses.

Mr Barretto further informed that wages are to be paid according to the Minimum Wages Act-1948 for agricultural laborers in the state. Presently the workers are paid Rs 110 per day per head, which is likely to be increased, the proposal for which has been sent to the sate government for approval. Also equal wages will be provided for both men and women, as the Act states.

The scheme provides that at least one third of the beneficiaries shall be women, who have registered and requested work under the scheme.

Mr Barretto also informed that work site facilities such as crèche, drinking water, shade have to be provided to the workers. He also said that permissible works predominantly include water and soil conservation, afforestation and land development works.

The Central government bears 100 per cent cost of unskilled manual labor and 75 per cent of the material cost, including the wages of skilled and semi-skilled workers. It is the work of the gram sabha to do the social audit periodically.

The scheme at the state level has been implemented as a centrally sponsored scheme on a cost-sharing basis, between the Centre and states as determined by the Act.

Though the gram sabha has been empowered to recommend works to be undertaken, under the scheme, the gram panchayat is the pivotal body for the implementation at the village level.

The panchayat is responsible for planning the works, receiving applications for registration, issuing job cards to those who have completed 18 years of age, which is restricted to 62 years, executing works, maintaining records, and monitoring the implementation of the scheme, at the village level.

The actual monitoring and supervision is done at the block level (Block Development Office) where two programme officers are appointed. In Canacona the scheme was first executed in Gaondongrem VP and incidentally, it was the first panchayat to be covered under this scheme, in Goa, in the year 2008.

The scheme in Canacona is taken care of by these programme officers in the persons of Ms Manisha Mendes and Mr Ramesh Gaonkar. While Ms Mendes looks after the panchayats of Khola, Agonda and Shristhal; Mr Gaonkar takes care of the panchayats comprising of Cotigao, Gaondongrem, Poinguinnim and Loliem-Polem.

The other people involved in the scheme implementation are the Gram Rozgar Sahayaks, messengers, two accountants and two assistant engineers. The Gram Rozgar Sahayaks take care of the filling of the nominations for job cards, identification of works at the panchayat level, with the help of panch members. They see and ensure that all works are effectively discharged by the gram panchayat.

The programme officers are full-time dedicated officers. The responsibility of the PO is discharged by the BDO. The funds are maintained by the gram panchayats, having a single bank account, which is jointly operated by the sarpanch and the panchayat secretary.

Under the Canacona block, there are in all, seven panchayats wherein the job cards are allotted under the scheme. These include Poinguinnim VP-374, Loliem-Polem VP-208, Gaondongrem VP-694, Cotigao VP-366, Shristhal VP-379, Khola VP-535 and Agonda VP-130, totaling 2686 job cards in all.

For the many works implemented in the different locations of the panchayats in Canacona, so far about Rs 34 lakh have been sanctioned for various works already completed, Mr Barretto informed.

Mr Barretto pointed out that any panchayat wishing to go for more works under the scheme, for block year 2011-2012, should adopt a resolution in the gram sabha and forward the same to the BDO for meeting the necessary formalities, including the preparation of estimates. Any such works proposed should reach the BDO’s office by November 2010, which can then be included in the coming financial year 2011-12, Mr Barretto added.

Ms Manisha, informed that the Agonda VP employed about 12 households, who have completed a construction of random rubble masonry compound wall at Mudcheli, for Rs 49,936.

In Gaondongrem VP, as many as 14 works have been undertaken and completed, informed PO, Mr Gaonkar, who added that Rs 20,24,654 have been spent on the projects, involving 523 households. He said protection field bunds to storm drain, construction of nullah bank, pitching for paddy fields known as Borimol, are some of the projects undertaken. In Poinguinnim VP, the farmers have taken up construction and de-silting of ponds at an estimated cost of Rs 8,10,347. Ms Manisha informed that the Loliem-Polem VP completed 2 works, namely that of construction of a kucha road and construction of nullah bank, which cost Rs 2,36,163. Cotigao VP took up two works, Mr Gaonkar affirmed, which comprised of construction of protective field bunds to storm drain, at a cost of Rs 2,82,557. The Khola VP also took up 2 works which included cutting of bushes at Gaval-Khola and the construction of field irrigation channel to the paddy filed, at Shelop village to the tune of Rs 76,670 .

In Gaondongrem VP the households employed were 523, while in Agonda VP there were 12 households employed. The other VPs comprise of 63 in Poinguinnim, 37 in Loliem-Polem, 69 in Cotigao and 39 in Khola.

Ms Mendes asserted that the scheme is highly beneficial as it covers also benefit for any accident caused while at work, which is to the maximum of Rs 25,000 in case of immobility. It also gives benefits to ST community in particular as their lands are preferred for development, she added.


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