Webinar: ''MGNREGA- Its contemporary relevance and the way forward":
Time & Location
About the Event
Offering employment to over 13 crore workers in 2020-21, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is by far the world's largest public employment programme. Since its inception in 2006, MGNREGA has undergone several transformations and has produced a significant impact on rural employment, migration, rural incomes and livelihoods across India. It has, over the years, emerged as an important tool in the hands of the government for alleviation of rural distress. The relevance of the programme has become even more apparent after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with reported widespread job losses and decline in income in the rural areas. In this webinar, two leading proponents of MGNREGA in India, Ms. Ashwini Kulkarni (Director, Pragati Abhiyan) and Shri Pramathesh Ambasta (CEO, BRLF), discussed the current status and future relevance of MGNREGA.
Both the speakers highlighted the relevance of MGNREGA in the lives of small and marginal tribal farmers in the rain-fed areas, geographies that also represent the largest concentration of poverty in the country. Miss Ashwini highlighted how this year, MGNREGA has been on a losing ground with the peak months of labour work being lost to the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. Given the scale and depth of the current crisis on ground, she addressed the difficulties faced by the labour owing to the stringent implementation of lockdown guidelines. Gram Sabhas have been halted, mobility of workers has been severely affected in many parts of the country, posing new challenges to the implementation of the scheme.
The speakers welcomed and appreciated the government’s announcement of additional allocation to the budget. However, after being 4 months into implementation, the current expenditure has surpassed more than half the total budget, calling for more investment to make the scheme relevant even in the post kharif season. Meaningful occupation in the post-kharif seasons can go a long way in curbing distress migration from the rural areas. Showing the way forward, Miss Kulkarni emphasized the need for rigorous planning to bolster MGNREGA, and how the role of the panchayat cannot be compromised as the central unit of planning. For MGNREGA to truly serve its purpose, the scheme requires investment in human resources and convergence between different government departments to ease the flow of work. Stressing the need to forge meaningful partnerships between the state, Civil Society Organizations and Gram Panchayats for the success of the scheme, Mr. Ambasta drew examples from Usharmukti, a project in West Bengal that runs with the motto -“ today’s wage, tomorrow’s livelihood”. The project has effectively focused on MGNREGA’s implementation in a watershed mode, by 7 Civil Society Organizations in the western part of West Bengal.
The talk also highlighted many significant facets of the rights-based scheme, such as providing a safer and fairer work culture for women in rural India. Besides parity in the wages, the water security achieved through MGNREGA has eased the gendered burden for many women who would earlier fetch water from far-off sources. Mr. Pramathesh quoted the example of Nari Sangh, a community-based organisation based in Uttar Pradesh and their efforts in strengthening accountability of local authorities through their advocacy and participation in the government schemes. Given the nature of work that happens in the local ecosystem using the local talent, Miss Kulkarni also highlighted the role MGNREGA plays in making communities resilient to the climate crisis. Not only does the scheme have the potential of boosting the rural economy, it also reduces carbon footprint as a co-benefit.