DASARAHALLI, India, Apr 10, 2012 (IPS) - Standing on a patch of arid, degraded land, 100 km from southern Bangalore city, Ramapal, member of the ‘gram panchayat’ (local village administration), points to a roughly-dug canal feeding a narrow belt of green cultivation.Read the rest at IPS Inter Press Service
"We cannot do without the government’s cash-for-work programme," he tells IPS. "We are happy with the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) which gives us an assured income, but we want more work."
The canal took 29 village individuals 14 days to build, paid for by the government under NREGA, the world’s largest social welfare scheme, with a budgetary allocation of 15.02 billion dollars for the 2011-2013 period.
The government says NREGA has so far provided over 10.1 million jobs to 550 million rural poor households.
NREGA, the ruling Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance coalition’s flagship scheme in 2005, helped return the party to power in the 2009 general elections.
Total funding for NREGA since its inception has crossed 29 billion dollars.
Begun in 2005-06, NREGA mandates 100 days of paid, unskilled manual labour to one member of every poor, rural household in a year, the scheme having accompanying legal strictures on transparency, accountability and monitoring.
Any eligible worker not given a job within 15 days of his or her request is entitled to unemployment allowance from the government.
Jobs include soil and water conservation-related measures such as afforestation, irrigation, conservation of ponds and activities related to agricultural productivity. Amendments to NREGA in 2012 have now included dairy and poultry-related activities.
Wages, which began at about two dollars six years ago, have now been increased, with each state adjusting NREGA wages according to respective minimum wages for labour.
India’s Job Guarantee Scheme Under Strain
By Keya Acharya