MGNREGA needed more than ever
Today, when the effects of the lockdown are being discussed again in the country and many migrant labourers are also returning from the city to the village, once again the importance of the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme ie MGNREGA has increased.
Last year, when the lockdown was imposed and the government announced special relief packages during the exodus of migrant labourers, the increase in the budget of MGNREGA was given an important place. In the present situation also the government should do the same.
Generally, the legal provision in MGNREGA is that the process of organizing work starts only when there is a demand for work from the workers. It takes some time.
For normal times this arrangement is fine. But when the economic condition of the people is weaker, the administration should be allowed to start this process on its own part also with the help of Panchayats, so that more works can be started in relatively less time.
The central government’s big responsibility is to make available adequate financial resources at the earliest because in the end the biggest need these days will be that there is no delay in the payment of labourers.
If all the remaining preparations are done to organize the work, but the wages of the labourers are not even paid on time, then the original purpose is not fulfilled and this situation has been seen many times.
A lot of time has passed since the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was enacted, but till now it has not got the recognition that it should have. For example, the word guarantee itself means that if the employee is not found lawfully, then compensation or compensation will be given in return.
The law also provides for this (though it is somewhat loosely placed) but in more than 95 per cent of the cases, this amount is not given. In the initial phase of the NDA government, efforts were seen to underestimate the importance of MNREGA, but soon it was seen that its importance is increasing even more in difficult times.
In the era of Covid, this became even more underlined. For this, the demand for increasing the budget allocation gained momentum and the conditions were such that even among other cuts, the central government had to accept this demand.
But apart from this, there are some other more long term reasons which are going to increase the importance of MGNREGA in the coming days.
To reduce the crisis of climate change, where the demand for reducing the emissions of various greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, will increase, it is also very important to increase the capacity to absorb carbon.
For this, afforestation, saving local species of trees, protecting pastures, increasing the organic content of the soil – all this is very important. MGNREGA can play a very important role in achieving all these objectives.
MNREGA is also a very important program from the point of view of water conservation. MGNREGA could not run completely ideally in most of the places, yet it has contributed significantly to water conservation, moisture conservation at many places.
In some places, we have seen the disappointment arising out of not getting wages for a long time, while in some places we have also seen the enthusiasm arising out of the satisfactory wages being received near the house.
If MGNREGA is run properly, employment and wages are available near the house for the welfare of the village.
With local understanding and participation, many village development works and environmental protection works can be done. In this way, MGNREGA can also play an important role in taking forward the dream of Gram Swaraj.
If the village becomes green, the greenery of the pastures and trees increases, then there is a possibility of many types of development works going forward.