Schem­ing to rob the poor of jobs

Gov­ern­ment is bent upon shrink­ing jobs for the poor by fun­da­men­tally chang­ing the ru­ral em­ploy­ment guar­an­tee scheme against the ad­vice of its of­fi­cials

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS - JI­TEN­DRA | NEW DELHI

The BJP gov­ern­ment is push­ing for changes in the ru­ral em­ploy­ment guar­an­tee scheme

against the ad­vice of its own of­fi­cials

Ato a decade of FTER CLOSE em­i­nence as the world’s largest pub­lic wage pro­gramme, the na­tional scheme that gives jobs to the poor in ru­ral ar­eas looks all set for im­mi­nent dis­band­ing. Com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween of­fi­cials of the Union ru­ral de­vel­op­ment min­istry and the min­is­ter in charge,Nitin Gad­kari,show that the min­is­ter is push­ing a dic­tate from the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice to bring changes in the pro­gramme. This has brought Gad­kari in con­fronta­tion with his own of­fi­cials who are ve­he­mently op­pos­ing the changes.

Of­fi­cials say the changes go against the spirit of the pro­gramme un­der the Ma­hatma Gandhi Na­tional Ru­ral Em­ploy­ment Guar­an­tee Act (mgnrega), which was de­signed for giv­ing jobs to un­skilled work­ers. Go­ing by the changes sug­gested and pur­sued by Gad­kari, the pro­gramme would look like one of those ear­lier pub­lic wage pro­grammes, such as the Em­ploy­ment As­sur­ance Scheme, that did not have the el­e­ment of en­ti­tle­ment to job.It seems the pro­gramme is now opened for the back­door en­try of con­trac­tors. In another blow to it in­stead of vil­lage pan­chay­ats, dis­trict of­fi­cials and state bu­reau­crats would now play a piv­otal role.

At present, mgnrega guar­an­tees 100 days of un­skilled em­ploy­ment on de­mand from a ru­ral fam­ily.By far it re­mains the most par­tic­i­pated pub­lic wage pro­gramme in In­dia. The gov­ern­ment has spent close to 2.6 lakh crore on this and cre­ated close to 14 mil­lion pro­duc­tive as­sets like ponds and roads (see

REUTERS

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