New Delhi, July 14 (ANI): The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, on Saturday said the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is perhaps the UPA Government’s most popular and successful flagship programme.
The Prime Minister referred to Jairam Ramesh’s article in Sameeksha, which says that the scheme is perhaps the largest and most ambitious social security and public works programme in the world.
Dr. Singh, who released the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA Sameeksha, the report brought out by the Ministry of Rural Development, in his address said: ” I am very happy to release Mahatma Gandhi NREGA Sameeksha, brought out by the Ministry of Rural Development. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is perhaps the UPA Government’s most popular and successful flagship programme.”
Dr. Singh said nearly 5.50 crore families, or nearly one in four rural households, were provided over 250 crore person-days of work under the MNREGA programme in 2010-11.
“This is a higher figure than the 90 crore person days of work provided in the first year of the Scheme in 2006-07,” said Dr. Singh.
“The Scheme scores high on inclusiveness. The share of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe families in the work has been 51 percent and that of women 47 percent. The average wage per person-day has gone up by 81 percent since the scheme’s inception. Wages are indexed to protect workers from the ravages of inflation,” he added.
Dr. Singh said nearly ten crore-bank/post office accounts have been opened, and added around 80 percent of Mahatma Gandhi NREGA payments are made through this innovative route, which is an unprecedented step in the direction of financial inclusion.
“The safety net provided by this Scheme has helped rural India cope with the frequent distress and natural disasters that are their lot. The combined effect of expanded agricultural production, demand for labour from the construction sector and the effect of Mahatma Gandhi NREGA has led to a tightening of the market for agricultural labour and a steady rise in real wages. Farmers sometimes complain about this,” said Dr. Singh.
“But rising demand for labour is the only way to help the landless improve their standard of living. The income support provided under Mahatma Gandhi NREGA has increased the bargaining power of agricultural labour to some extent and it has helped to put a floor under rural poverty as well,” he added.
Asserting that the Panchayati Raj institutions have to gear themselves to play the central role assigned to them under the scheme, Dr. Singh said: “We have to provide resources to equip the Panchayats to perform these functions effectively. If these local bodies can rise to the challenge, the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA can very well become a ‘silver bullet’ for India’s rural renewal.”
Dr. Singh further said the challenge before policy makers is to design more flexible, scientific and community based approaches that encourage implementing agencies to be innovative and responsive to local needs and circumstances.
“Spreading awareness and engendering a sense of commitment and participation among beneficiaries are important goals. The Sameeksha shows how local initiatives are helping to tackle these issues. In Rajasthan, the main provisions of the Scheme are being displayed on the walls of Gram Panchayats,” said Dr. Singh.
“In Jharkhand, voluntary organizations have set up help centres to create awareness and provide hand holding services to beneficiaries. Similar voluntary initiatives could help Gram Sabhas as well,” he added.
Dr. Singh further said the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA offers the promise of entitlement, empowerment, security and opportunity to millions of our marginalized citizens.
“It offers the promise of being a spearhead of rural transformation that spins off positive impulses in agriculture, community development, sustainable livelihood creation, water management and sanitation,” said Dr. Singh.
“The Sameeksha has a lot of food for thought on where we stand six years since we launched this historic Scheme. I hope policy makers, public representatives, implementing agencies and civil society enable more such independent evaluations, which should become a normal part of our review and evaluation process,” he added. (ANI)