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Decline in job scheme workdays worrying

Last updated on: July 14, 2011 14:27 IST

Decline in job scheme workdays worrying

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Sreelatha Menon in New Delhi

The rural job guarantee scheme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, has registered a low in terms of the workdays households have got this financial year, underlining the challenge for new rural development minister Jairam Ramesh.

The scheme guarantees 100 days work per household in a year and had been providing a major chunk by June each year.

But compared with 2009-10, this financial year has seen the number of days fall by half. 

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Image: Villagers working in a field under the NREGA programme.
Photographs: Reuters
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The states worst hit are the ones which were the best performers, such as Andhra, Karnataka, and Maharashtra.

The numbers have gone down steeply in Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan, too.

The number of days provided by June have gone down from an average of 31.98 in 2009-10 to 15.05 this year.

Last year this time, it was 24.47 days.

Maharashtra has come down from 52 days in 2009 to 20.56 days now.

It was 26 days last year.

Andhra Pradesh has come down from 33.21 days in 2009 to a mere 11 this year.

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Last year, it was 32.7 at this time of the year.

Karnataka also is down from 35.84 days in 2009 to 18.06. It was 23.94 in June last year.

MGNREGS activists in different states attribute this fall to a bumper harvest, besides an increase in funds spent on materials rather than labour.

They also blame complications caused by information technology interventions, such as a sophisticated management information system, for delays.

A senior official in the ministry of rural development says the latest data available online is not comparable with previous years, for it is always a month late.

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But in that case, the trend has been downward even in the last two years, not only in number of work days but also on the money spent.

The money spent this financial year has been just 14 per cent of the available funds, while it was 48 per cent last year this time.

Possibly why

The trend is upward for money spent on materials.

The percentage so spent has been 23 per cent this year as compared to 19 per cent last year and 24 per cent the previous year.

In fact, a former member of the Central Employment Guarantee Council and a leading activist in Andhra, K S Gopal, attributes the increase in expenditure on material in

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MGNREGA as a reason for the reduced number of work days under the scheme.

He said so in a report to the state government on the issue.

Besides a bumper harvest, he points to complications in IT and banking for   created inordinate delay in payments.

"In Andhra Pradesh earlier, workers could come and start working at a work site at any time of the week. But now they have to be there on Monday or Tuesday or they don't get to join," he says. 

In Karnataka, the new MIS introduced by the Centre has made it difficult for local authorities to either use it or misuse it.

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Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Photographs: Reuters
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It obliges the work providers to enter muster rolls of each worksite the day work begins and also enter the date on which the work ends.

The wage slips are issued exactly 15 days after that date.

Therefore, work providers are now trying to enter false dates for beginning and ending the work, as they are unable to make payments so fast, says Abhay Kumar, an activist in the state.

Rajasthan, which has also seen a drastic fall, has been  seeing brisk construction work on the Rajiv Kendras.
Says Gopal: "The increase in expenditure on materials  is bound to lead to less employment."



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