On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of NREGA on 2nd February, here is a special update on the world’s largest anti-poverty public works scheme. As almost half the country is gripped by drought there is a greater need than ever before to revive the Act, which is a lifeline for almost 22 percent of rural households. Here is the original documentary of the people’s movement to enact the law and the latest factsheet with graphs on a decade of implementation of this law.
Currently there are two PILs in the Supreme Court which could potentially initiate far-reaching changes to pressurise the government into action.
Swaraj Abhiyan Drought PIL: On 1st February, the Supreme Court based on petition by Swaraj Abhiyan pulled up the centre and 8 drought-hit states for their laxity in implementation of the National Food Security Act, NREGA, Famine Code and other drought-relief measures. The petition also seeks 2 kgs of pulses, eggs in school mid-day meals and ICDS, 150 days of timely NREGA employment. In a scathing reprimand, the bench enquired, "Does Gujarat want to breakaway from India? How can a state say that it won't follow law passed by Parliament". The Centre has to file its affidavit by mid-February . For more details, please contact Yogendra Yadav at yogend...@gmail.com
NREGA PIL: The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Ministry of Rural Development based on a PIL filed in the Supreme Court by RTI activists Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Lalit Mathur. The PIL seeks four key breakthroughs i) timely payment of wages, ii) notification of wage rates atleast equal to the minimum wage, iii) payment of compensation in case of delayed payments and iv) the setting up of independent social audit units. For more details, please write to Nikhil Dey at nikh...@gmail.com
Delayed Wages: Activists contend that 2015 was the worst year for the scheme and around 12 states show a negative list, without enough funds to pay wages to beneficiaries for a demand-driven law. In the current year, in the midst of a drought 57% of wages are delayed. The Union Minister for Rural Development has however claimed that, “we are not short of funds”. But several drought-affected states are starved of funds. Here is the latest press note by the People's Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG) with human stories. For more details, please contact Praavita Kashyap at praa...@gmail.com
150 Days Mirage: Last year, the Central government had announced that 14 drought-affected states and 3 union territories would receive an additional 50 days of work for each household i.e. 150 days in total. The Odisha government had increased the cap to 200 days. But though welcome, only 4 percent of households hit the 100-day mark in 2014-15, with the average being just 40 days. Further, only 27 percent of payments were made within the stipulated 15 days.
Across states too there have been a series of regressive developments:
Jharkhand: On the occasion of the 10th NREGA diwas, rallies were organised in Manika, Chhattarpur and other blocks to mark the event and protest against delays in wage payments. Another recent hurdle is the insistence on aadhar numbers. For more details, please contact James Herenj at jameshe...@gmail.com
Odisha: In Odisha, the Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has directed the Panchayati Raj Department to submit a report on the absence of an effective social audit system for the NREGA in the state. For more details, please contact Bidyut Mohanty bidyut....@gmail.com and
Rajkishor Mishra rajkish...@gmail.com
Uttar Pradesh: In 2014-15, Uttar Pradesh provided only 24 days of NREGA on an average. For more details, please write to Arundhati Dhuru arundha...@gmail.com
Rajasthan: On 1st December the Suchana Evam Rojgar Adhikar Abhiyaan (SR Abhiyaan) embarked on a 100 day "jawabdehi yatra". But in Jhalawar district’s Aklera region a mob violently attacked the yatra with lathis led by a sitting BJP MLA. 150 eminent persons have written to the CM and PM to demand his arrest. For updates, please follow this facebook page or write to Kavita Srivastava at kavit...@gmail.com
Karnataka: It is one of the several states where the daily wage of Rs 204 is less than the minimum wage. But, farm hands earn more so despite the acute need for employment and waves of migration, NREGA is unable to attract especially the youth. For more details, please write to Abhay Kumar at rka...@yahoo.co.in and Sharada Gopal at sharad...@gmail.com
Bihar: The state performs less than the national average in implementation of NREGA, despite 71 percent rural households earning less than Rs 5,000 a month. For more details please contact Rupesh at koshi...@yahoo.com
On the more positive front, there have been sparks of path-breaking trends and unique, decentralised innovations:
Dalits, Adivasis and Women: 40 percent of households working in NREGA in 2014-15 were scheduled caste (SC) or tribe (ST). Amongst adivasis and dalits, the positive influence of NREGA employment in poverty reduction between 2004-5 and 2011-12 is estimated is at 28 and 38 percent respectively by the India Human Development Survey 2. 55 percent of NREGA workers in 2014-15 were women and their participation has increased every year since the launch of the Act. For more, please see this factsheet
Waste Management: In an ingenious initiative, the Tamil Nadu government has employed 60,000 `Thuimai Kavalars` (sanitation workers) under NREGA across 9,000 of 12,000 panchayats. Each worker collects waste from households, segregates garbage and composts biodegradable organic waste to manure. Non-biodegradable waste like plastic is shred and used for road laying. The central government now plans to expand this scheme nationwide under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
Water Conservation: The Maharashtra government has launched a Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan to make 5000 villages drought-free with workers are employed under MGNREGA. The project involves deepening and widening of streams, construction of cement and earthen stop dams, work on nullahs and digging of farm ponds.
Brick-making: Karnataka’s Kalaburagi Zilla Panchayat has employed labourers under MNREGA even beyond the mandatory 150 days to manufacture environment- friendly earthen bricks in the ‘Mardani Press” designed by the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru. In Pali (Rajasthan) and Bankura (West Bengal), too MGNREGA labourers are being employed in brick-making.
Yojana Banao Abhiyan: In end 2015, the Jharkhand government launched the Yojana Banao Abhiyan for participatory planning of works to be implemented by NREGA (in 2016-17), grants given to gram panchayats (for 2015-16 and 2016-17) as per the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission and other development programmes.
Productive Assets: The Ministry of Rural Development has documented a range of productive assets created under NREGA. The Institute for Human Development has evaluated the 1 lakh wells sanctioned in Jharkhand to show a high completion rate with a healthy rate of return of 6 percent. The Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research had also released a photo-essay on NREGA assets.
Urban Rural Employment Guarantee: Tripura is the only state to offer urban dwellers guaranteed employment. But now the clamour has begun for a nationwide replication of an urban employment guarantee.
Steering Group Meeting: The next steering group meeting of the campaign is scheduled for 15th February in Badu, West Bengal. The draft agenda is indicated here. To reach the venue, please contact Anuradha Talwar pbk...@gmail.com
NFSA: There has been a spate of recent launches of the National Food Security Act across Eastern states as highlighted in previous RTF Updates. Here are a few recent developments
West Bengal: Prior to the election, the government with its own monies has expanded coverage to 80% of the rural population.
Uttar Pradesh: Has rolled it out in phases in 28 districts from 1st January and here is the website to monitor beneficiaries.
Jharkhand: A survey in 8 villages of Manika found that only 77% surveyed households had a new ration card, though all were eligible.
Odisha: With an NFSA self-application process, de-privatization and digitization, Odisha has forged ahead in PDS reforms
Chhattisgarh: The state campaign and several others have organised a Jan Adhikar Yatra. For daily updates, see this facebook page
North-Eastern states: The NFSA will be implemented in Mizoram in February with universal coverage, Arunachal Pradesh in March and Manipur in April. Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura had already began to implement the law in 2015.
Public Hearing on NFSA Survey in 8 villages
NREGA Sahayata Kendra Manika and Ranchi University Economics Department
Steering Group Meeting
Right to Food Campaign
Bangladesh Right to Food Convention
Bangladesh Right to Food Forum
26 January - 13 February
Jan Adhikar Yatra
various organisations including the state Right to Food Campaign
From 1st December
Soochna evum Rozgar Adhikar Abhiyan
Har haath ko kaam do. Kaam ka poora daam do.
Secretariat, Right to Food Campaign