The Ministry of Rural Development has issued a directive to all states to take steps to improve the implementation and outreach of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
In a letter dated September 2, the ministry lists 10 key issues pertaining to implementation of the scheme, based on evaluations conducted by the ministry and other independent agencies.
Introduced in 2006, MGNREGA promises 100 days of employment every year to each rural household. The Centre’s bid to plug leaks in the scheme’s implementation comes after the NDA government, in its initial days, faced flak from several quarters for its alleged attempts to “dilute” the programme.
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To begin with, states have been asked to ensure all that households who have reported deprivation according to the Socio Economic Caste Census are given job cards. All “poor” households must have these cards by November 30. The ministry has also directed states to establish a simple system of registration of work demand, and publicise it through various means.
To address the problem of collection of wages by ghost workers, the ministry has directed that a representative of self help groups or village organisations be responsible for this in each village.
The ministry has “resolved” to bring down the percentage of delayed payments to single digits, and instructed states to ensure their systems are geared up to fulfill this objective. Delay in wage payments is perhaps the biggest criticism of MGNREGA.
Evaluation studies, the ministry said, have also pointed to a large number of incomplete works under MGNREGA. For this, states have been instructed to ensure timely measurement of works and their closure.
“Studies have pointed out lack of awareness in many households with regard to entitlements under MGNREGS. We would like to request states to run a campaign at all levels to spread public information…” the circular stated.