Poverty in India, according to the Planning Commission report, has reduced successfully in 2009-10 from 1973. Similarly, the rural poverty also declined during the same period. However, India is still facing the mass poverty even after successful completion of Eleventh Five Year Plan. For poverty alleviation, India started a number of programs and policies; but all remained unsuccessful. Despite achieving more than 5 per cent economic growth, the trickle-down effect idea to reach the benefit of growth to the poor also failed. Several laws were passed for poverty alleviation, but they too could not help much to the poor. Now, the planning commission thought of “inclusive growth” for the poor to be included in the growth and development process. MGNREGA is one of the important act for the rural people to include in the growth process. It is helpful in reducing poverty in rural areas by providing 100 days guaranteed wage employment. In the villages, the infrastructures are created, which is of prime importance for the development of the rural as well as the urban areas. MGNREGA is also helpful in raising the standard of living of the rural people. However, the people in rural areas welcomed the MGNREGA, but considered it as “half a loaf is better than none”. India fixed the target for the growth of 9.0 to 9.5 percent for the Twelfth plan, but it should be inclusive. Poverty, therefore, must be addressed at priority basis, because growth has no meaning without reducing misery and hunger to the large sections of the society. In India, more than 70 present people live in rural areas and among rural population. Marginalized sections of the society are more vulnerable.
India already achieved a very impressive growth rate of more than 8 per cent in the Eleventh plan, but the country is still facing the problem of mass poverty, especially in the rural areas. This needs special attention by the government. India in this direction has done a commendable work by enacting employment guarantee act i.e. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005. The Act gives the legal right to the rural people to get at least 100 days employment, which is expected to reduce the poverty level in the rural areas.
The present paper mainly deals with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 , how it is helpful in reducing poverty in rural areas by providing 100 days guaranteed wage employment. The data for this purpose collected through secondary sources provided by the planning commission, MIS report on MGNREGA and other sources. The data has been analyzed to know the impact of MGNREGA on the employment and income of the rural people.
Growth and Poverty:
In India, the alleviation of Poverty and employment generation have always been an important issues from the beginning of the five year plan. However, the planning commission in the fifth Five year plan emphasized particularly the importance of poverty reduction. In the beginning after independence, poverty and unemployment were not taken seriously by the government and fully relied upon the philosophy of trickle–down effect. The benefits of growth were considered to percolate to the bottom level and marginalized sections of the society would get benefited automatically. The growth was assumed to be an important instrument for the poverty reduction. In the decade of 1980s, India achieved the growth rate of more than 5 per cent in both the sixth and seventh plan; however, the poverty ratio remained very high, 44.5 per cent in 1983 and 38.9 per cent in 1987-88 The rural areas were the worst affected with the poverty ratio of 45.6 per cent and 39.1 per cent during the same period with varying degree in different states. After new economic reforms in 1991, India registered a very high growth rate of 7.8 percent in the Tenth plan, even then the poverty remained a big challenge for India due to high rate of poverty of 37.2 per cent (according to Tendulkar Methodology) in 2004-05. The poverty ratio in the rural areas in the same period was estimated to be 41.8 per cent. However, India realized the failure of trickle–down philosophy and shifted to “inclusive growth” strategy in the Eleventh plan .The planning commission in the Eleventh five year plan document mentioned that “growth of GDP should not be treated as an end in itself, but only as a means to an end.”2 In the twelfth five year plan the planning commission exclusively given importance to achieve 9.0 to 9.5 per cent growth target, but inclusive. As a result of this strategy, India’s poverty ratio seems to be declined to 29.8 per cent in 2009-10 from 37.2 percent in 2004-05. The percentage of our population below the poverty line is showing declining trend; however, the poverty ratio for social groups is yet very high. “In rural areas scheduled tribes exhibit the highest level of poverty (47.4%) , followed by scheduled castes (42.3%) and other Backward castes (31.9%) against 33.8% for all classes as per 2009-10 poverty estimates. In Urban areas SCs have HCR of 34.1% followed by STs (30.4%) and OBCs (24.3%) against 20.9% for all classes.
In rural Bihar and Chhattisgarh, nearly two–third (2/3) of SCs and STs are poor, whereas in states such as Manipur, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh, the poverty ratio for these groups is more than half.” The present scenario of poverty ratio of social groups demands for special emphasis to address the problem. Earlier, the government launched a number of important anti-poverty and employment generation programmes for the poor namely: Rural Works Programmes (RWP) , Marginal Farmers and Agricultural Labours Development Agencies (MFALDA), Half A Million job programme, Food for Work Programme (FWP), National Rural Employment Programme (NREP) , Training of Rural Youth for Sel- Employment (TRYSEM), Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP), Rural Landless Employment Guarantee Programme (RLEGP), JawaharRozgarYojana (JRY), Nehru RozgarYojana (NRY), Prime Minister’s RozgarYojana (PMRY), Employment Assurance Scheme (EAS), Rural Employment Generation Programme (REGP), etc. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 is the recent employment generation programme came in to existence in the form of an Act, which facilitate for the legal right to demand employment.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), 2005
Since independence, the government launched a number of poverty alleviation and employment generation programmes, especially for rural people, like TRYSEM, IRDP, RLEGP, JRY, NRY, SGSY, etc. These programmes were somehow effective, but not up to the expectations of the people in solving the problem of unemployment and poverty eradication on account of several shortcomings noticed in the wage employment programmes. These shortcomings were likely to be: lack of awareness, lack of sincerity, lack of community participation, lack of complete awareness, lack of planning, Panchayats not well equipped, Quality of assets created not always of requisite standard, Reports of false muster rolls, Problems in payment : often less than gal right to demand employment. prescribed wages and disparity between wages paid to women and men, Contractors persisted, Diversion of funds, Weak monitoring and verification systems, Lack of comprehensive data Base, Inadequate capacity of implementing agencies, Multiple wages employment programmes running in parallel. Lack of Genuine will to decentralize, Lack of organization of the poor for greater participation, and Lack of Public Accountability.
The significant features of MGNREGA are 1. Guaranteed employment, 2. Kind of right-based employment, 3.Panchayat Raj Institutions are entrusted with the powers of making scheme active in the rural areas, 4. in case creation of employment is not possible the rural people are entitled to get unemployment allowance, 5. Unlike other employment scheme contractors are prohibited to interfere in scheme, 6, another feature is worksite facilities are provided, 7. All the payment of wages are made through Banks or Post Offices, 8. Provision of social audit relating to all expenditure is there, 9. the works undertaken with the purpose of conservation of natural resources and asset creation, 10.Sustainable development of an agricultural economy.
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment guarantee Act has a five-tier structure of implementation starting from Gram Panchayat at the bottom to the Central Government at the top. Gram Panchayat is the nodal agency at the bottom level that has the authority to select, design and implement the works. Selection of works, execution, monitoring and supervision are done by the Gram Sabha (Village Council). Gram Panchayat has the responsibility to register households, issue job cards, receive applications for employment, provide employment and monitor the works under this scheme.
Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation in India
Rural development is a socio-economic concept, it mainly deals with the poor inhabitants of rural and interior village areas and they should be highlighted and given the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of development through improved education, health, nutrition and good environment. This is the basic conception of rural development as the social infrastructures could provide the catalyst that would transform the rural areas.
Rural India which represents a huge population is characterized by low income levels, not even adequate to ensure the minimum quality of the life compatible with physical wellbeing. In the post-independence period, during 1960s, it was realized that the benefits of rapid growth were not ultimately reaching the target groups and as a result the impact of overall economic growth of the country widened the gap between the poor and the rich. Mainly due to this factor the planning and strategy of rural development was changed.
The decline in rural poverty is attributable both to the growth factor and to the special employment programmes launched by the Government in order to generate more incomes in the rural areas. Hence, in its more limited interpretation, rural development has been confined to a direct attack on poverty through special employment programmes, area development programs and land reforms.
Rural development in India has witnessed several changes over the years in its emphasis, approaches, strategies and programmes. It has assumed a new dimension and perspectives as a consequence. Rural development can be richer and more meaningful only through the participation of clienteles of development. Just as implementation is the touchstone for planning, people’s participation is the centre-piece in rural development. People’s participation is one of the foremost pre-requisites of development process both from procedural and philosophical perspectives. For the development planners and administrators it is important to solicit the participation of different groups of rural people, to make the plans participatory.
Various poverty alleviation and employment generation programmes such as Rural Works Programme, Integrated Rural Development Programme, National Rural Employment Programme, Pilot Intensive Rural Employment Programme, Crash Scheme for Rural Employment, Rural Landless Employment Guarantee Programme, Jawarhar Rozgar Yojana, Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana and many other were implemented to enable people to earn extra income than agriculture.
None of these programmes comprehensively covered the whole country, though in certain parts of the country some of these programmes operated simultaneously for the same target groups. The problems in this areas is that although the programme is meant specifically for the small and marginal farmers, it has catered mostly to the needs of the middle and large farmers as they have easy access to government financial institutions. The major limitation of these programmes was that they were reduced to mere subsidy giving programs, lacking any planned approach to enable the rural poor achieve a higher level of income.
These well intended employment generation schemes have failed primarily due to lack of sufficient resource allocation apart from corruption in the implementation. The basic problem is that, national policies and programmes during the last half century have not helped poor and downtrodden section to emerge from the perennial poverty gap. The income generated programmes does not recognize the importance of increased flow of social inputs through family welfare, nutrition, social security and minimum needs in alleviating conditions of poverty on a long term basis. Further, the policies and schemes have done little for disabled, sick and socially handicapped individuals who cannot participate in normal economic activities. These policies often ignore the consequences of the earning activities of the poor in terms occupational health hazards and adverse ecological consequences
Poverty Addresser Issues of MGNREGA
India’s Poverty and the Significance of MGNREGS
According to the estimates by Planning Commission of India, the proportion of the people living below poverty line remained more than 50 percent till the mid of 1970 without any significant change. As per the 55th Round of NSS, nearly 260 million Indians (193 million in rural and 67 million in urban) remained below poverty line in 1999 – 2000India’s current official poverty rates are based on its Planning Commission’s data derived from Tendulkar Methodology. It defines poverty not in terms of annual income, but in terms of consumption or expenditure of per individual over a certain period for a basket of essential goods. Further, this methodology fixes different poverty lines for rural and urban areas. Since 2007, India sets its official threshold at Rs. 26 a day in rural areas and about Rs. 32 per day in urban areas. Though these numbers are lower than the world Bank’s $1.25 per day income based definition. As per United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Programme 270 million or 21.9% people out of 1.2 billion of Indians lived below poverty line of $ 1.25 in 2011-12. This number is expected to reduce to 20.3% or 268 million people by 2020
According to the latest report of the Planning Commission, the number of people living below the poverty line has shrunk to 21.9 percent in 2011-12 from 37.2 percent in 2004-05 because of increase in per capita consumption. The latest numbers on poverty levels are dramatic, they show that the numbers of people below poverty line (as mentioned by the Tendulkar Committee) has shrunk from 37 percent of the population to 22 percent, in the seven years to 2011-12. This is an unprecedented diminish in poverty levels, some 40 percent of those who were poor in 2004-2005 were no longer poor seven years later.
India was ranked 63rd position in the Global Hunger Index in 2013. However, the country has achieved progress against hunger, as India moved up eight places from last year on the Global Hunger Index to rank 55th out of 76 nations. The World Bank estimates that India is one of the highest ranking countries in the world for the number of children suffering from malnutrition. The prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world and is nearly double that of Sub-Saharan Africa with dire consequences for mobility, mortality, productivity and economic growth. The As per the Global Hunger Index Report 2015, India ranked 20th amongst the leading countries with serious hunger situations. Among South Asian nations, it ranks third behind only Afghanistan and Pakistan with a GHI score of 29.0.
According to United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) programme 270 million or 21.9% people out of 1.2 billion of Indians lived below poverty line of $1.25 in 2011-2012.In the recently published Human Development Report 2015, focused on the deprivation in the following three elements of human life- longevity, knowledge and a decent standard of living, it was unveiled that India has been placed at 130th position in the 2015 Human Development Index (HDI) among the 188 countries.
India is one of the fastest growing economies; it is also the 12th largest economy in the world. India’s Tenth Five Year Plan has been adopted to complement and meet the UN Millennium Development Goal 2015 targets. The most significant in this plan are the reduction of poverty to only 20 percent, increased employment generation, universal primary education and raising the level of nutrition and universal availability of drinking water. Towards faster and more inclusive growth is the central theme of the Eleventh Five Year plan that was approved by the National Development Council. Rs. 36.44 trillion earmarked for poverty reduction, plan seeks to lower poverty rate by 10%, generate 70 million new jobs and reduce unemployment to less than 5%.The government intends to reduce poverty by 10 per cent during the 12th Five-Year Plan.
Challenges before MGNREGA
Policy Plan required for Poverty Alleviation in India
The main objective of Indian planning is to alleviate poverty. In this regard government has launched many poverty alleviation programmes. Even then no radical change has been undergone in the ownership of assets, process of production and basic amenities to the poor. In this way poverty alleviation programmes have proved failure due to insufficient resources and lack of proper implementation, active participation of poor, proper identification of poor and infrastructure.
MGNREGA is the ever largest rural employment generation programmes in India since independence. This poverty alleviation initiative not only secures 100 days job and minimum earnings for every adult of every household but at the same time it satisfies some other important aspects e.g. environment protection and sustainable development, gender equality and women empowerment, sustainable asset creation and mitigation of the migration problem. MGNREGA has come into the rural life as a ray of light. Participants of MGNREGA have been relieved from poverty and hunger. Poor villagers are releasing themselves from the high-interest bearing local credit and create some household assets by the earnings of the scheme. Above all it is not overstated that the primary objective of the proposal i.e. right to job for all and overall rural welfare has been fulfilled and the project creates job guarantee and strengthens the rural livelihood security.
The basic economic notion of self-targeting employment guarantee programmes is that the households that are most likely to seek MGNREGS employment are those otherwise unemployed or whose self-employment or any other livelihood options would earn less than the programme’s minimum wage, they are considered as poor. The demand-oriented nature of the MGNREGS is one of its many features as this self-selection is expected to generate a progressive poor participation profile.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 enacted by the Government of India, is perhaps the most ambitious anti-poverty programmes launched anywhere in the world. The negative findings of the implementation of NREGA have been broadly reported in recent times in the mainstream media. Lack of transparency, leakage of funds, use of obsolete technologies, lack of coordination among agencies, non-participation of the target groups in planning and execution, delay in making payment of wages, lack of qualified personnel in adequate numbers and top-down approaches have been identified as some of the major drawback in the proper implementation of the Improvement and progress in the quality of life greatly depends on good governance, which requires multipronged approach. The development planning for of rural people largely remains in priority. Decentralized development planning involving Panchayat Raj institutions and the Gram Sabha can improve the way for participatory governance while addressing the sustainability and poverty alleviation issues. If the institutions like Panchayats, Gram Sabhas and other local bodies constituted in rural areas play active and commendable role then only the benefits of ambitious rural poverty alleviation programmes will be proved beneficial for needy people of the rural areas. scheme.
Assistant Professor, Department of Studies and Research in Economics, Tumkur University, Tumakuru, Karnataka
Professor, Department of Studies and Research in Economics, Tumkur University, Tumakuru, Karnataka
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