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
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