Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said on Thursday that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) was not a permanent solution for providing jobs in rural parts of the country.
“I do not see MGNREGS as a permanent employment generating programme. It is a transition programme for a 20-25 year period in areas where there is a need for distress employment,” he said, while inaugurating ‘IDFC Limited’s India Rural Development Report 2013.’ The report reviewed all major Central government rural programmes and schemes and, in particular, the flagship rural job scheme.
Additionally, the Minister noted that all evidence points to the changing nature of rural employment and a sharp increase in rural non-farm employment. The report reveals that non-farm income sources are increasingly important – 43 per cent of rural families rely on non-farm employment as their major income source.
Mr. Ramesh said the government would be bringing out changes in the implementation of the scheme by focusing on creation of durable community assets under the programme.
Identifying the “fundamental problems” of the scheme, Mr. Ramesh said, they stemmed from the conflicting nature of its three objectives. “The objective number one of the MGNREGS is providing wages, objective number two is creating government community assets and three empowering gram panchayats. At no point of time can all the three objectives be achieved,” he said.
The Minister said the scheme had helped reduce distress migration from States such as Bihar and Odisha to Punjab and Haryana. This had been felt by the Railways as not many passengers had travelled between the two places.
40-45 day employment
According to the report, the scheme has provided an average of 40-50 days of employment per year to about 25 per cent of all rural households making it the largest public works programme in India’s history. It has helped empower women by providing them employment on equal terms. Women account for almost half the total person days of employment.
The scheme has contributed to reducing poverty, both directly as well as indirectly, by putting upward pressure on agricultural wages.
But the programme has inadequate coverage among the needy (despite their demand for work), especially in those States that have a high incidence of poverty, possibly reflecting weaker governance. Other issues that must be dealt with urgently include delays in providing work and in wage payments, and shortage of engineering staff.