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‘Government flagship scheme has not stemmed rural migration’


New Delhi : The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), that promises jobs to thousands in rural India, has not stopped migration to cities, a non-government study found.

Manoj Rai of the Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), a civil society group, which conducted a study on the effect of the NREGS, the government’s flagship job-generation scheme, in 20 districts in India, said the scheme has mostly failed to give employment to a person when he most needs it, thus forcing him to migrate to metros.

“The NREGS guarantees employment to a person within 15 days of application. However, as we found, in most places this was not happening. In Rajgarh in Chhattisgarh, only 39 percent people got employment a fortnight after application, while in Jamtara in Jharkhand, it was a mere 26.4 percent,” Rai said at a press meet in the capital Friday.

“In places like Madhubani district of Bihar the percentage is nil. Overall, only 41.6 percent people have got jobs within the stipulated time. If a person does not get a job when he most needs it, he is left with no choice but go elsewhere,” he added.

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), launched Feb 2, 2006 in 200 districts, was expanded to 330 districts in the second phase from April 1, 2007 and to all rural districts of the country from the beginning of this financial year 2008-09.

Under this scheme, there is a legal guarantee of 100 days of employment in a financial year. If a person does not get a job within 15 days of application, he can claim unemployment allowance.

“The budget for NREGS is Rs.16,000 crore. However, the unemployment allowance is the state’s responsibility, it comes from the state’s fund. To avoid paying for this allowance, most often the demand for jobs is not documented.

“An illiterate villager doesn’t know what a receipt is, and therefore he can’t claim the unemployment allowance. It is felt that if unemployment allowance is given then questions will be raised as to why were those people not given jobs in the first place,” Rai said.

Rajesh Sinha, who conducted the survey in 468 gram panchayats in 20 districts in 13 states, said that yet another observation that they made was that the number of applications for jobs from registered households was very low.

“This does not mean that people don’t need jobs. It just means that the awareness level of the scheme is very low. Even in those places where the civil society is active and literacy level high, like Kerala, the condition is the same,” Sinha said.

However, the surveyors also came across a number of people who got jobs under the scheme without applying for it.

“In Muzaffarpur in Bihar, 76 percent of people got jobs without applying for it! Overall, nearly 30 percent people got jobs without applying. This indicates the loopholes of the system,” Sinha said.

The study also points out that the gram panchayats are overworked in their duties and suggests technical and administrative assistance to implement the scheme well.