ANDHRA PRADESH

Rural works scheme: just for wage?

BARREN ASSETS?: Farm labourers at work on a pebble bund in Bandlapalli village of Anantapur district.- Photo: Mohd.Yousuf

BARREN ASSETS?: Farm labourers at work on a pebble bund in Bandlapalli village of Anantapur district.- Photo: Mohd.Yousuf  

K. Venkateshwarlu

The bureaucracy appears to have played it safe going by the clear tilt towards providing wage employment

ANANTAPUR: Is National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) merely for wage employment for a poor subsistent dryland farmer or for creating productive assets, spur regeneration of local ecology and thus reduce poverty? Nearly a year after the launch of the programme, implementation agencies down to the level of gram panchayat seemed to be in a dilemma, as a tour across this district, one of the 200 selected for implementation of NREGA in the country, showed.

Going by the type of works taken up -- earthen or pebble-bunding around farms and farm ponds forming a major share of the 22,037 works -- the bureaucracy appears to have played it safe going by the tilt towards wage employment rather than infusing variety into the activities or improving the asset base.

Statistics

Statistics (till December end) too talk in terms of job cards issued (5,06,930), wage employment demanded (2,47, 407 individuals) and persondays generated (42,88, 474) fetching average daily wage of Rs. 99.94. Nothing on productive assets generated through spending Rs. 4576.52 lakhs. No doubt, these works form part of water conservation and harvesting, at the top of NREGA agenda. But nowhere is it mentioned that a village or a district , should stick to a set pattern. Not much thought was spared to blend wage employment with creation of durable assets innovatively. Villagers of Bandlapalli where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched the programme operationalising NREGA, spoke strongly about the utility of bunding works. "It will meet the fate of the watershed programme. We will simply demolish them as we did to some of the watershed structures earlier. What will we do with them when there is no rain for years? At best, they might ensure wages for some. But a permanent solution is an irrigation canal," says Narayan Reddy, sarpanch of the village. One may dismiss him as cynical but he had a point.

Luring labourers

Asked why such same type of works were taken up all over, E. N. Srinivasulu, Project Director of District Water Management Agency, the implementation authority of NREGA in the district, said, "We have to lure the labourers to work in this initial period. We thought bunding and farm pond works were easier and they could earn more".

Experts behind the otherwise well-thought out NREGA might not have bargained but if urgent steps are not taken to resolve the dilemma and strengthen the linkages, there is danger that it may be reduced to just another wage employment scheme.

Recommended for you