The Congress may be quick to attack the ruling NDA government for attempting to dilute the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) since it came to power, and for its poor implementation this year, but the high-profile constituencies of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi have performed dismally under the scheme, ranking below the national average on most key parameters.
MGNREGA, introduced in February 2006 by the Congress-led UPA government, promises a 100 days of employment every year to each rural household. The scheme has been a key electoral plank for the Congress. While they may take pride in their government having brought in this ambitious welfare scheme, its performance in their own constituencies raises serious questions.
For instance, in Amethi (Rahul’s district), only 27.51% of the beneficiaries under the scheme have been women, which is significantly lower than the national average of 50.71%. Sonia’s bastion Rae Bareli has fared no better with 28.51% beneficiaries this year. Both the districts defy the Act which stipulates that one-third of the beneficiaries under the scheme should be women.
In terms of the women persondays as a proportion of total persondays generated this year, while the national average is 55.12%, Amethi manages only 26.58% and Rae Bareli fares even worse at 25.92%. Both regions, however, are slightly better than the state average of 24.27%.
Moreover, only around 17% of wages have been paid in time so far this fiscal in Amethi, while 27.33% have been paid in Rae Bareli. The national average in wages being paid on time is around 28%, while the state average is 21%. The Act mandates payment of wages within 15 days. It means a whopping 83% of beneficiaries in Amethi have not been paid their wages on time this year.
The average days of employment provided per household so far this fiscal has been 31.87% in Amethi and 23.35% in Rae Bareli, again lower than the national average of 35.49%. Only 2% households have been able to complete the promised 100 days of work under the scheme in Amethi this year till now; while in Rae Bareli, no household has been able to complete it. The national average is 2.79% so far.
The administration of both districts, however, claim, they are doing well in implementing the scheme with respect to the state’s performance. “In terms of performance in the state, we don’t do poorly. We rank 40-45 in some parameters among all districts and 25-30 in some others. It may be a high-profile district but it is the same for labour under MGNREGA… Besides, we have big factories around and often labour prefers to work there because the pays are higher,” said Anup Kumar, Chief Development Officer, Rae Bareli.
“I haven’t seen it from the parameter of the district’s performance against national figures, but its performance is not worse than the state average. We aren’t facing problems like fund shortage,” Amethi District Magistrate Jagat Raj said.