The objective of the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA ( National Rural employment Guarantee Act 2005) is – ‘to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work’. To achieve this objective, the government has been holding Saras Melas every year providing platform to rural artisans and farmers to exhibit and sell their articles or produce. But these are short term programs and it would be best if the private sector gets involved, especially practitioners in the field to facilitate rural employment on sustainable basis.
In India – 70 % of its population still live in villages; though, the present situation of ‘overcrowded’ urban centers have necessitated the private sector to venture into new rural markets. This is a welcome change! I agree, there is plenty of bottleneck while trying to do sustained commercial activity in the rural markets that are devoid of basic infrastructure – roadways, electricity, water and telecommunications! But, so are the new ‘market’ opportunities available ‘plenty’ in these rural markets!! India is taking ‘forward’ steps in terms of reduction in mass poverty and such a claim of the central government is substantiated by the facts published in the Times of India (TOI) that highlight the moderate success of NREGA.
1. Employment through NREGA has provided 4.1 crore households in the year 2010-11, up to December 2010.
2. 879 crore persondays generated since the start of Act
3. Women have participated in 410 crore persondays, nearly 50% of the whole.
4. SC/ST (scheduled caste/ tribes) have participated 245 and 214 crore persondays respectively
5. Total central funds released Rs 1,128,61 crores till date
6. Average wage per personday has risen to Rs 100 in the year 2010-11
7. Over 10 crore bank/ post office accounts opened for NREGA workers making NREGA the largest tool to initiate and build financial inclusion.
These facts are important as well as relevant to make India grow into a regional economic power it is tipped to be in the near future and these accomplishments will contribute to raise the ‘per capita’ income in the country.
What is important is to bring transparency in these activities through effective social audit. In order to avoid malpractice and delay in payment of wages, biometric systems should be incorporated to safeguard workers’ interests. Such steps will enhance productivity, enthuse the youth to work harder and will sustain national development in the long run. In addition, gram panchayats should be strengthened to ensure justice and put systems in order. In essence, the workers should feel empowered and their livelihood made secure – the main objective of the NREGA Act.
Income when coupled with basic education – builds self-respect among the poor and generates self-interest in them to move ahead in their lives. I can recollect well – my days spent in the rural areas of Maharashtra state during the course of my earlier job assignments. Trust me, there is a lot more ‘development’ to be done in our villages and these villagers are ‘potential buyers’ of new products and solutions spread across varied interests/ industries. Through NREGA and other such acts, India is growing!
Visit NREGA, to learn more.