Government of India has allocated an additional Rs. 6,084 crore at RE stage to MGNREGA.
This brings the total allocation to the scheme to Rs. 61,084 crore in 2018-19, making it the highest ever allocation. Governance reforms and thrust on sustainable livelihoods through durable assets has ensured better lives for the poor through wages, incomes and durable assets.
MGNREGA is a flagship programme of the Ministry which addresses poverty in a holistic manner by overcoming social inequalities and creating a base for sustainable & long term development. Mahatma Gandhi NREGA is transforming rural India into a more productive, equitable and connected society.
It has provided nearly 235 crore person days in the last three years, each year. This year as well, it will be around the same making it four years of consistent high performance on wage employment with durable assets for sustainable livelihoods.
Over the last 4 years, the Ministry of Rural Development has completed major reforms in the MGNREGA to transform it into a resource for sustainable livelihoods for the poor. Generation of payments within 15 days was done only in 26.85% cases in 2014-15 and barely 29.44 lakh assets were completed in that year.
A systematic nationwide exercise was initiated for plugging these gaps in partnership with States. Now these sustained efforts have started to show remarkable results.
The first and foremost requirement was to ensure full transparency in wage payments, asset creation, and payment for materials. It is for this reason that efforts were started for a 100% of geo-tagging of assets, AADHAAR linking of Bank Accounts, IT/DBT transfers for all wages, and material payments and Geographic Information System (GIS) based planning of works.
The intention was that work should be visible in the public domain and beneficiaries receive payments in their verified accounts. As on 08.01.19, GeoMGNREGA is implemented in 31 States/UTs and 3.40 crore works out of 4.08 crore completed works since inception of the programme, are already geo-tagged and are in public domain. Social Audit had a very limited approach and its implementation needed to be extended to the whole country. Social Auditing Standards had to be developed, certified Social Auditors had to be trained, and women Self Help Group (SHG) members had to be brought in for faster roll out.
On the technical side, while money was being spent on Water Conservation works, the technical training of the staff was inadequate and often many structures were created which did not give the expected outcomes.
It is for this reason that the Mission Water Conservation Guideline were drawn up in 2015-16 in partnership with the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation and Department of Land Resources to focus on the dark and grey blocks where the ground water level was falling rapidly. This partnership allowed us to avail the technical knowledge of engineers, scientists from Central Ground Water Board to build a robust technical manual and implement capacity development programme for the frontline workers. A special Barefoot Technicians programme was rolled out to ensure better technical supervision.
There has been a remarkable increasing trend in the budget allocation of the Central Government and release for the programme from Rs. 32,977 crore in financial year 2014-15 to Rs. 55,167 crore in the financial year 2017-18. This is a clear evidence of the increasing faith of the people in the programme. The MGNREGS witnessed a record expenditure of Rs. 63,644 crore in 2017-18 including state share, the highest since the programme was launched. This year is going to be even higher.
The issue of creation of durable assets was very important. The 60:40 ratio was mandated at Gram Panchayat level often leading to non-productive asset being created simply because 60% had to be spent on unskilled wage labour in that Gram Panchayat. Without diluting 60:40 principle, the first big reform was to allow 60:40 at the District level rather than at the Gram Panchayat level. In spite of this reform, the ratio of expenditure on unskilled wage labour to overall expenditure remains higher than 65%. This has enabled a new thrust on durable assets that generate incomes. It allows the flexibility to undertake only those assets that are productive.
Over 60% of the resources are spent on Natural Resource Management (NRM). The NRM works are focused on ensuring higher incomes to farmers by improving both the area under cultivation and yield of crops. This is done by improving the productivity of land and increasing the water availability. The major works taken up under NRM include check dam, ponds, renovation of traditional water bodies, land development, embankment, field bunds, field channels, plantations, contour trenches etc. During the last 4 years 143 lakh hectares of land benefitted through these interventions. Large scale water conservation, river rejuvenation, and irrigation works have been taken up and completed under MGNREGS.
Another major thrust of the last four years has been creation of durable community and individual beneficiary assets. A very large number of Individual Beneficiary Schemes like goat sheds, dairy sheds, 90-95 days work in Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana – Gramin (PMAY-G), wells, farm ponds, vermi-compost pits, water soak pits etc. have also been taken up over the last 4 years. These assets have helped the under privileged to have access to alternative sustainable livelihood.
Similarly, building of Anganwadi Centers (AWC) has been a significant effort towards creation of durable community assets. The AWCs act as a hub for the care and development of young children where the working mothers can also leave their children behind while they seek work. Nearly 1,11,000 AWCs are being constructed in convergence with MWCD. Solid Waste Management works have also been taken up on a large scale leading to cleaner villages, higher incomes, and more diversified livelihoods for the poor. All this is being possible by permitting 60:40 at the District level rather than at the Gram Panchayat level. The commitment to unskilled wage labour has not declined at all in spite of a thrust on durable assets that are income generating and livelihood diversifying