Friday, June 19, 2015

Increasing the number of work entitlement days from 100 to 150 in drought-hit districts

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is a scheme through which the government has tried to provide an alternate means of employment to the rural poor and thus alleviate rural distress due to under- or unemployment.
Increasing the number of work entitlement days from 100 to 150 in drought-hit districts would have the following effects -
1. Such a move would be a short-term measure and ensure that distress due to failed crops does not create insurmountable problems for the rural poor.
2. It would ensure that the people can fulfill their basic needs and do not resort to forced migration in search of jobs elsewhere.
3. However, just increasing the entitlement days is not the solution. The government needs to also ensure that work is generated to meet that entitlement. The average work provided was only 40 days in 2014-15.
4. The government must also focus on such works which will help to alleviate the problems faced by the people in the long term, thus the focus must be on water conservation efforts, and durable infrastructure for the villages.
5. The government must also ensure that the issue of delays in payments and leakages are also tackled. Given the vast coverage by the government under the Jan Dhan and Aadhar schemes, achieving this task should become progressively easier.
However, increasing the entitlement under MGNREGA should only be treated as a temporary measure, the government must also take steps for long term solutions -
1. Promotion of crop insurance schemes to ensure that the government to transfer some of the risk of a disaster from the government's balance sheets.
2. Development of disaster management plan with well defined 'trigger points'. This would ensure that any future such calamity will be speedily tackled.
3. Generation of well paying jobs in the manufacturing sector to reduce the pressure on agriculture.
Thus, while increasing the entitlements would have a positive impact in the short run, the government must also keep focus on ensuring the mitigation of the problem in the long run

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