JAIPUR: The Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) has praised the Rajasthan Government’s recent initiative to increase women’s participation in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) by rewarding the women labourers who have completed 100 days of work in a financial year.
The initiative, taken under the Amrita Devi Bishnoi Yojana, could be replicated in other States such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where women’s participation in the flagship scheme was low in comparison with men, noted PRIA in its study of third phase of National Sample Survey during 2006 to 2008.
The Rajasthan Government reduced the task prescribed for calculating wages under the NREGS by 30 per cent on October 1, 2007. After an initial 10 per cent reduction, the task was further revised by 20 per cent and finally by 30 per cent in view of women and old labourers not being able to accomplish the allotted task and deprived of minimum wages.
PRIA – a non-government organisation working for promotion of participatory and democratic governance – found that a monitoring committee formed in Sapotra block of Karauli district was functioning effectively for ensuring payment of adequate wages and implementation of NREGS. The committee is headed by the woman Sarpanch of Sapotra panchayat samiti, Shakuntala Meena.
The PRIA study on “Role of Panchayati Raj institutions in implementation of NREGS” covered about 4,680 households and 468 village panchayats and NREGS officials in 13 States. It observed that the average annual person days of employment provided to each household under the NREGS was just 42, which was less than half of what the NREG Act guaranteed.
The Act assures at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in every financial year to every rural household.
PRIA president Rajesh Tandon said the study was conducted not only to fill the gaps but also to focus on alternative initiatives to strengthen the role of Panchayati Raj institutions in the implementation of NREGS. The study was carried out under PRIA’s programme titled “Governance where people matter”.
In addition to Rajasthan, the study was conducted in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. Sample size and data collection was done at five levels – State, district, block, village panchayat and household.
The study found that although a large number of households were getting employment under NREGS, they were “not getting it when they most needed it”. A large number of households received their wage payment after a maximum period of 15 days.
The data suggested that more than one-third of the households received less than minimum wages, although almost all registered households had been issued job cards. Village panchayats, designated as principal authorities for planning and executing NREGS, are facing difficulties because of non-availability of staff.