Labour shortage has become a major worry for farmers

While the government seems to laud itself claiming that the 100 days National rural employment scheme popularly called as NAREGA is a big success in villages, a study conducted by Bharat Krishak Sangh in Delhi revealed that the expenditure of candidates for Panchayat elections increased 10 fold since work started under the employment scheme, and that most people elected as Sarpanch (Panchayat President) bought a multi utility vehicle within months of being elected.

Corruption

“These are a direct consequence of leakages such as corruption and acceptance of sub-standard work in our country's agriculture field,” says Mr. Ajay Jakhar, Chairman of the Krishak Sangh.

“Realizing this, I believe Jean Dreze, who is credited with proposing this scheme, was compelled to observe that “Narega is a pro-people law implemented by an anti-people system.”

People who influence and make policy must be aware of ground realities. A policy must not be designed to be implemented by an utopian non-existent system.

As a consequence even the good components in half-baked policies are eventually eroded by ill-informed choices and poor governance,” he says.

It is clear that if the government needs to continue to give direct employment to the masses then this scheme is an acknowledgment of the failure of all rural development schemes since independence. “Farming is no more dignified as more farmers look for govt. jobs and bride grooms from the other sectors.

“Over Rs. 100,000 crore spent on employment generation programmes are definitely not value for money spent; considering opportunities lost and other alternative investment options ignored. If it is an economic stimulus or a subsidy can be debated,” says Mr. Jakhar.

Rather than such expenditures, investments could have been made in increasing rural prosperity and productivity which would have also created self-employment opportunities.

Spin off effect

“The employment scheme gives a minimum wage rate to anyone ready to do some minimum labour. It is giving them some safety valve, which is good but the spin off effect for the farmer is that labour shortage has become one of his biggest worries,” he adds.

“We realized this problem and everybody acknowledges it today. We proposed simple terms within the ambit of the scheme to safeguard farmer interest;

“The 100 day employment will only be guaranteed in the lean agriculture season. Positive consequences of inclusion are:

Simple strategy

“There will be no shortage of labour in the peak season of harvest and sowing. People will get employment in the lean season when there is less opportunity of work. This will ensure higher number of available workdays in a year for the people without extra budgetary support,” he exhorts.

Cropping patterns change as seasons vary across geographies. “Fearful of the central government always generalizing, we further proposed that the District Collector in consultation with State Agriculture University should be directed to notify 150 days of the year when employment cannot be given,” says Mr. Jakhar.

There is demand from some quarters for enunciating a ‘wage sharing' scheme - labour demanding work can be engaged by the small farmers who will pay 50 per cent of the wages and the balance 50 per cent can be paid by the Government, according to him.

In theory, this sounds good like most policies. But in practice the ground reality is that “this provision will be exploited for personal gain by influential people in the villages and the proposed benefits will not be available to the genuine small farmers,” seems to be his conviction.

Provide governance

The Government should provide governance and an atmosphere conducive for employment generation rather than provide direct employment.

“We cannot not quantify or ignore the social cost that India will have to eventually pay for providing jobs to large sections of society who get paid to work less and inefficiently,” he says.

To interact readers can contact Mr. Ajay Jakhar: at Chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj, A-1, Nizamuddin West, New Delhi-110013, e-mail : aj@bks.org.in , mobile: 09810144555, phones : 011-65650384 and 46121708.