National Rural Employment Guarantee: Issues, concerns and prospects | Employment | Poverty

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This working paper critically analyses the performance of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), a very large rights-based social protection programme developed post-2005 for the entirety of India which promises '100 days guaranteed wage'. The analysis is based on primary field studies conducted by agencies across India as well as from secondary data sources. This statistical paper particularly analyses the working of the Act against the percentages of workers' participation (both males and females), and the differences in patterns across India's States between 2004 and 2009. Themes reviewed include: gender equality
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  Oxfam India working   papers series September 2010OIWPS - V  D. Narasimha ReddyC. Upendranadh Essential Services National Rural Employment Guarantee: Issues, Concerns and Prospects  NREGS is a massive rights-based social protection programme of the country. It evolved tremendously over the past fi ve years, demonstrating the relevance in as well impact on the rural landscape. In spite of being a nationally designed programme, it demonstrated varying performance across states, and several local innovations, improvisations, and adjustments can be seen at the fi eld level. This paper brings out an analysis of its performance in terms of meeting the risks and vulnerabilities of identi fi ed sections and identi fi es issues and concerns that stem from the fi eld. Our analysis is based on secondary data sources as well as fi eld studies conducted by various agencies across the country. The paper identi fi es the fast-evolving ground scenario of implementation as well as some speci fi c initial conditions that determined the trajectory of progress across states in its implementation. Political commitment, proactive bureaucracies and their capacities, and experience are found to be some of the factors that enabled states like Andhra Pradesh to unfold smoother implementation and innovate on the design templates of the programme. Civil society groups played a critical role in several states, working as pressure groups. However, there are a host of issues related to design, processes, and implementation, both at the fi eld level and at the policy level. These are to be addressed through clarity in guidelines, fl exible approach, institutionalized processes, technical support, and closer monitoring by agencies at different levels. Abstract Disclaimer: Oxfam India Working Paper Series disseminates the fi nding of the work in progress to encourage the exchange of ideas about development issues. An objective of the series is to get the fi ndings out quickly, even if the presentations are less than fully polished. The papers carry the names of the authors and should be cited accordingly. The fi ndings, interpretations, and conclusion expressed in this paper are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the views of Oxfam India. Produced by:   Oxfam India  For more information, please contact:  Avinash Kumar  Theme Lead - Essential ServicesOxfam IndiaPlot No. 1, Community Centre2nd Floor (Above Sujan Mahinder Hospital)New Friends Colony, New Delhi - 110 025Tel: 91 11 4653 8000Website: www.oxfamindia.org  Authors:  D. Narasimha Reddy and C. Upendranadh D. Narsimha Reddy  is currently a Visiting Professor at IHD, New Delhi. He retired as Professor of Economics and Dean, School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad. His specialisations are Political Economy of Development, Labour economics and agrarian Studies. He has been a member of several academic bodies and past Conference President of the Indian Society of Labour Economics. He served as a member of some expert committees of the State and Central governments.Email: duvvurunarasimha@gmail.com C.Upendranadh works as senior fellow at Institute for Human Development, New Delhi and is coordinating a Research Programme on Social Protection in South Asia. He is also engaged in a fi eld study on NREG that focuses on institutions and governance.Email: c.upendranadh@gmail.com Study Supported by Oxfam India in collaboration with Institute for Human Development, New Delhi Copyright @ 2010 Oxfam IndiaReproduction of this publication for educational or other non-commercial purposes is authorized, without prior written permission, provided the source is fully acknowledged.   1 I Introduction Ever since India achieved independence, one of the major challenges before successive governments has been provision of adequate remunerative employment to the vast majority of rural workers who have been unemployed, or mostly underemployed, in meagre subsistence livelihood activities. The Indian Constitution addressed the issue as a part of the Directive Principles of State Policy. According to Article 39 the state must ensure that ‘citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means to livelihood’ and Article 41 enunciates that ‘the state, shall within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing Right to Work …’ The Right to Work as such did not get the needed  priority, though the Government of India, from time to time, did undertake public works-related wage employment programmes since the 1960s. These programmes were mostly ad hoc  in nature, had limited impact in generation of employment, lacked  proper planning in creation of assets, and most of the assets created were of poor quality and often suffered from poor maintenance. These programmes did not make any lasting impact, either on rural unemployment or in improving rural resources. Right to Work was relegated to a low priority under the trickle-down strategies which enunciate that with growth and industrialization there would be growing opportunities for the unemployed and underemployed to be absorbed in productive employment. Paradoxically, the neo-liberal reforms did bring about a very high rate of growth of GDP in the 1990s (6.7 per cent) compared to the 1980s (5.2 per cent). However, the reforms failed to stimulate higher rate growth of employment in the 1990s, which was as low as 1.07 per cent compared to 2.7 per cent in the 1980s. There was increase in unemployment and underemployment and much of the little growth witnessed was in the informal sector, with formal public sector employment showing a declining trend. These developments have evoked considerable public concern in India and the ‘Right to Work’ surfaced as an important political agenda. The Common Minimum Programme of the UPA government which came to power in 2004 placed Right to Work as top priority. It stated, ‘…The UPA Government will immediately enact a  National Employment Guarantee Act. This will provide legal guarantee for at least 100 days of employment on asset-creating public works programmes every year at minimum wage for every rural household…’. The result was the enactment of the Rural Employment Guarantee Act in 2005. The Act is expected to enable people to claim from the state a basic aspect of their Constitutional Right to Work. The NREG was introduced in February 2006, in 200 districts to begin with; in April 2007 it was extended to another 130 districts; and from April 2008 it was extended to all rural areas in the country. Through a synthesis and analysis of evidences, this paper attempts to take stock of the  progress, identify issues and concerns in the implementation of NREG, and provide a set of recommendations for enhancing the effectiveness of the programme. The paper is divided into six sections. Following this introduction, the second section discusses the multiplicity of perspectives that NREG has thrown up and the programme features as it took the shape of legal provision. The third section, based on official sources,  provides a macro view of implementation in terms of a few indicators. The fourth section, based on field studies, analyses the impact of the NREG. The fifth section
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