The MGNREGS has helped to increase agricultural wages and enhance the bargaining power of the rural poor, say studies
A comprehensive time series of rural wage data — both agricultural and non-agricultural — put together by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation indicates that the advent of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has resulted in a significant structural break in rural wage increases.
Between 1999 and 2005, that is the pre-MGNREGA period, nominal wages in the rural economy grew at an average annual rate of 2.7 per cent (year on year average). Post MGNREGA, the rate of average wage increases almost quadrupled to 9.7 per cent between 2006 and 2009. And between January 2010 and May 2011, annual nominal wage growth averaged almost 18.8 per cent.
According to the Planning Commission, during 2011-12, nearly five crore families were provided over 211 crore person-days of work under the programme. In many parts of the country, successes have been recorded in water harvesting. Distress migration has been arrested in several areas. The objective of the Union Ministry of Rural Development in creating durable assets and strengthening the livelihood base of the rural poor through the flagship scheme has so far met considerable success.
In order to evaluate the impact of MGNREGA, the Ministry of Rural Development has now set up a National Level Network (NIN), a network of institutions including the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM), Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), think-tanks, civil society organisations and other professional institutes, which have highlighted that the programme intervention has led to improvements in the rural infrastructure and impacted livelihoods.
Key findings of such studies related to the impact of MGNREGA works include an increase in agricultural wages and enhanced bargaining power of the rural poor. There has been improvement in the ground water table, agricultural productivity and cropping intensity. Additionally, the studies have revealed a significant reduction in water vulnerability index, agriculture vulnerability and livelihood vulnerability.
“The Ministry receives grievances/complaints relating to delay in payments of wages, irregular maintenance records, etc. As implementation of the Act is vested with the States/Union Territories, all complaints received in the Ministry are forwarded to the State governments concerned for taking appropriate action, including investigation, as per law,” said Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister for Rural Development.
Mr. Ramesh further elaborated: “Keeping in view the challenges in implementation of MGNREGA, permissible administrative expenditure limit was enhanced from four per cent to six per cent for deployment of dedicated staff for MGNREGA, strengthening managements and administrative support for maintenance of records, social audit, grievance redressal and Information and Communication Technology to automate the manual processes it promoted.”
Payment of wages in cash has been allowed under the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) for selected tribal and backward districts to obviate payment delays where outreach of banks/post offices is inadequate, as an interim arrangement subject to certain conditions.
To strengthen the institutional outreach for wage disbursement, the State governments have been instructed to roll out the Business Correspondent Model to make wage payments through banks with bio-metric authentication at village level.
“With the objective of expanding and deepening the positive synergy between MGNREGA and agriculture, especially in the context of small and marginal farmers, the Ministry has permitted new works under livestock related works, irrigation command related works ( rehabilitation of minor, sub-minor and field channels),etc.,” added Mr. Ramesh.