Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Highlights of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA)

Highlights of MGNREGA, the largest employment guarantee public works program in the world. In later posts, I will post summaries of audit reports to check if these conditions are fulfilled. Also, I will post how NREGA is doing so far. Here is a previous blog post on NREGA.

Eligibility: Any person who is above the age of 18 and resides in rural areas is entitled to apply for work.

Entitlement: Any applicant is entitled to work within 15 days, for as many as he/she has applied, subject to a limit of 100 days per household per year.

Distance: Work is to be provided within a radius of 5 kilometers of the applicant’s residence if possible, and in any case within the Block. If work is provided beyond 5 kilometers, travel allowances have to be paid.

Wages: Workers are entitled to the statutory minimum wage applicable to agricultural laborers in the state, unless and until the Central Government “notifies” a different wage rate. If the Central Government notifies, the wage rate is subject to a minimum of Rs.60 per day.

Timely payment: Workers are to be paid weekly, or in any case not later than a fortnight. Payment of wages is to be made directly to the person concerned in the presence of independent persons of the community on pre-announced dates.

Unemployment allowance: If work is not provided within 15 days, applicants are entitled to an unemployment allowance: one third of the wage rate for the first thirty days, and one half thereafter.

Worksite facilities: Laborers are entitled to various facilities at the worksite such as clean drinking water, shade for periods of rest, emergency health care, and crèche.

Employment guarantee scheme: Each State Government has to put in place an “Employment Guarantee Scheme” within six months of the Act coming into force.

Permissible works: A list of permissible works is given in Schedule I of the Act. These are concerned mainly with water conservation, minor irrigation, land development, rural roads, etc. However, the Schedule also allows “any other work which may be notified by the Central Government in consultation with the State Government.”

Program Officer: The Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is to be coordinated at the Block level by a “Program Officer”.

Implementing agencies: Works are to be executed by “implementing agencies”. These include, first and foremost, the Gram Panchayats (they are supposed to implement half of the works), but implementing agencies may also include other Panchayati Raj Institutions, line departments such as the Public Works Department or Forest Department, and NGOs.

Contractors: Private contractors are banned.

Decentralized planning: A shelf of projects is to be maintained by the Program Officer, based on proposals from the implementing agencies. Each Gram Panchayat is also supposed to prepare a shelf of works based on the recommendations of the Gram Sabha.

Transparency and accountability: The Act includes various provisions for transparency and accountability, such as regular social audits by the Gram Sabhas, mandatory disclosure of muster rolls, public accessibility of all documents, regular updating of job cards, etc.

Participation of women: Priority is to be given to women in the allocation of work, “in such a way that at least one-third of the beneficiaries shall be women”.

Penalties: The Act states that “whoever contravenes the provisions of this Act shall on conviction be liable to a fine which may extend to one thousand rupees”.

State council: The implementation of the Act is to be monitored by a “State Employment Guarantee Council.”

Cost sharing: The Central Government has to pay for unskilled labor wages and 75% of the material and semi-skilled, skilled labor wages. State governments have to pay the 25% of the material costs and unemployment allowance, if liable.