MGNREGA has played a critical role in alleviating the economic hardship stemming from the pandemic.
- In 2020-21, the first year of the pandemic, 11.19 crore individuals worked under the scheme, up from 7.88 crore in 2019-20.
- Right to get unemployment allowance in case employment is not provided within fifteen days.
- Social Audit of MGNREGA works is mandatory, which lends to accountability and transparency.
MGNREGA is to augment employment generation and social security in India.
The scheme is a demand-driven wage employment scheme, which functions under the Ministry of Rural Development.
Scheme envisages providing 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year.
- In many cases, the audit found that workers were listed on the records but were missing from work sites.
- The audit found “delay (in) payment, no material supply despite payment made to vendor, wage payment done without work” and “work not found on ground despite shown completed”.
- Problems of inclusion and exclusion: issues related to the existence of fake job cards, the inclusion of fictitious names.
- The MNREGA wage rates are even lower than the state minimum wage for agriculture. The shortfall is in the range of 2-33% of the minimum wage.
- With very little autonomy, gram panchayats are not able to implement this act in an effective and efficient manner.
- There is a need for better coordination between various government departments and the mechanism to allot and measure the work.
- Coming at a time when the employment guarantee scheme is playing a key role in lessening the distress amongst the informal labor force — all efforts should be made to ensure that such irregularities are minimized.
2. The Bare Minimum
Reasons for Legal Guarantee of MSP:
- MSP provides a powerful signal to the farmer to exercise the choice of sowing a particular crop because the farmer can back-calculate the expected margin.
- The significance of MSP is only when the markets do not clear the minimum price. In such a situation, the farmer gets a return less than the MSP and by this argument we are escorting the farm fraternity towards bankruptcy. A legal guarantee is, therefore, needed.
The MSP is the rate at which the government purchases crops from farmers, and is based on a calculation of at least one-and-a-half times the cost of production incurred by the farmers.
MSP is a “minimum price” for any crop that the government considers as remunerative for farmers and hence deserving of “support”.
- While the MSPs technically ensure a minimum 50% return on all cultivation costs, these are largely on paper. In most crops grown across much of India, the prices received by farmers, especially during harvest time, are well below the officially-declared MSPs.
- And since MSPs have no statutory backing, they cannot demand these as a matter of right.
- Providing MSP does not allow the market to discover the prices; if market cleared prices are less than MSP, then the only buyer would be the government; this would render the government bankrupt.
- A better way to address the possible income gap is to give an income support-based direct benefit transfer (DBT).
- The MSP is already being enforced, directly or through fiat, on roughly Rs 3.8 lakh crore worth of produce. Providing legal guarantee for the entire marketable surplus of the 23 MSP crops would mean covering another Rs 5 lakh crore or so.
- Farmers face many other issues other than price, which itself is not guaranteed given the influence of politicians and cartels in mandis. They lack information on which crop to grow, are short of post-harvest technologies etc.
- It may be a good idea to declare a low MSP upfront that is legally guaranteed so that the farmers are encouraged to move to an alternate crop. This would need imaginative decentralised thinking.
- We need to modernise the markets and storage and processing facilities.
- There is a growing consensus among economists for guaranteeing minimum “incomes”, as against “prices”, to farmers.