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Jobs guarantee Bill diluted
BS Economy Bureau in New Delhi | December 04, 2004 11:16 IST
Noted economist Jean Dreze on Friday said the Employment Guarantee Bill, which aimed to provide 100 days of employment a year to a member of every household, had been watered down. Dreze is one of the principal architects of the Bill.
In the latest version of the Bill, the clause, which states the legislation should be extended to cover the entire country in five years, has been replaced by another clause saying it can come into effect in "certain places", as and when notified. The Bill is proposed to be introduced in Parliament during the ongoing winter session.
The new version of the Bill also states wages will not be subject to the Minimum Wages Act.
Despite these changes, Dreze said the Bill would go a long way towards empowering the unorganised labourers in the country.
He, however, said there was "tremendous hostility of the bureaucracy towards the poor in India. There is a pervasive tendency to blame the poor for their plight".
Delivering the First New India Foundation Lecture on the Right to Food, he said economists had not been forthright in favouring the Bill. Among the problems they have cited is disabling litigation.
He said one should not be swayed by what the bureaucrats say, because "they see the problem from the point of view of the circles they move in-the government and the finance ministry. They find it difficult to see it from the point of view of the disempowered labourers" said Dreze, who is noted as much for his work on hunger and poverty (books jointly authored with Amartya Sen) as for his experience of the conditions he researches on.
"Involvement in action adds to an understanding of issues. It enables us to understand the world from a different perspective, distancing us from the centres of power," he said, adding, academic centres, "are anything but neutral ground".
Academics were usually involved with the centres of power - the government, the multilateral institutions, and the like, he said. The Act offered in its original form wide-reaching benefits, the chief among them being the reduction in poverty it could bring about.
"Even providing 100 days of job at Rs 60 a day will fetch households Rs 6,000 a year, which will enable around 70 per cent of the households in India to go up the poverty line," he said.
Other beneficial fallouts will be a steep reduction in rural-urban migration, empowerment of women, creation of durable assets in the countryside, particularly in the area of environmental protection, and an opportunity to revive the panchayats.
Bill of plights
Original version: The Employment Guarantee Bill should be extended to cover the entire country in five years
New billing: The Bill can come into effect in certain places, as and when notifiedDreze, one of the Bill's architects, says: The bureaucracy is hostile towards the poor in India. There is a pervasive tendency to blame the poor for their own plight