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Implementation of NREGA in Maharashtra: experiences, challenges and ways forward

Deepak, Shah (2012): Implementation of NREGA in Maharashtra: experiences, challenges and ways forward.

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Abstract

There has been a spate of studies designed to assess the performance of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) ever since the Act relating to it came into being in August 2005. While some studies have debunked this nation-wide programme, others are seen to endorse it on the grounds that it will transform the lives of poor and make them aware of their entitlement. The present investigation therefore attempts to evaluate the implementation of NREGA in the state of Maharashtra with emphasis on coverage of households, employment guaranteed, works undertaken, strengths, bottlenecks and strategies for further strengthening the programme. Although there has always been a debate about the effectiveness of NREGA in terms of coverage of the target group, and also it is criticized on two grounds that it is expensive and corruption will not allow it to succeed, the experience of Maharashtra shows that it is partly true. The scheme is successful in terms asset creation, watershed development, prevention of draught, large scale administration of rural public works and reduction in large scale migration. The scheme is also successful in terms of coverage of weaker sections of the society. However, the major problem relates to the employment generation as the mandays generated and the number households provided 100 days of employment are quite low in almost all the districts of Maharashtra. With the sole exception of providing employment opportunities to the weaker sections of the society, the Act has not been able to succeed in any of its other provisions. In Maharashtra, only 34 per cent households registered under NREGA received job cards, which is quite a low proportion. The wages offered under NREGA are low in several districts of the state, which could be due to improper methods of measurement of productivity. The other problems relating to wages encompass lack of information on the part of workers about wage rates for different kinds of work in different types of terrain, lack of their bargaining power, fudging of muster rolls leading to low wage payment, difficulty in understanding the mode of payment-mix of cash and kind as prescribed in Maharashtra, etc. However, the NREGA is much better scheme than any other employment related programmes. It has still to do a lot of catching to make its presence felt in different parts of the country. The linking of employment guarantee schemes with other schemes of public works will certainly improve skill levels among workers, though this will require improved levels of coordination in the public sector.

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