Have you ever envisaged a nation, where everyone capable of working is fully employed? Where everyone from urban menial to rural laborer and from unskilled roustabout to skilled engineer is engaged in some kind of job and the problem of unemployment is completely wiped out. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) was introduced in 2005 to bring forth this idea. NREGA is a social security scheme that attempts to provide livelihood and employment to rural laborers in the country. In 2006, NREGA was initially passed as a labour law and implemented across 200 districts. By 2008, the act was widespread all over the nation. NREGA was initiated with the objective of enhancing livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year, to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. NREGA was later renamed as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to enforce every individualâ€™s right to work. In case an individual is not employed within 15 days of registration, he or she automatically becomes eligible for an unemployment allowance.
Key features of MGNREGA Scheme that truly has the potential to make it the â€œMassiahâ€ of the poor:
- Guaranteed employment: Every adult in a rural household, who is applying for work, is guaranteed a job under MGNREGA scheme. The entitlement, however, is not for more than 100 days of employment in each financial year.
- Guaranteed wages: Wages are to be paid on a weekly basis and cannot be at a rate less than Rs. 100 per day. Other than that, every state has individual criteria attached to MGNREGA. Time rate and piece rate differs from state to state.
- Unemployment allowance: In case an individual is not employed within 15 days of registration, he or she automatically becomes eligible for an unemployment allowance, which is one-fourth of the wage rate.
- Provision of work: Employment is to be provided within 5km radius of an applicantâ€™s residence, otherwise he/she would be eligible for extra 10% wage to compensate for travelling allowance.
- Gender equality: Both men and women are entitled to equal wages and one third of all beneficiaries ought to be women.
- Financial inclusion: Since 2008, all the wages ought to be transferred to the bank accounts of beneficiaries.
- Accountability and transparency: All the MGNREGA related accounts and documents are to be made available for public scrutiny and probe. And the concerned authority is accountable to the MGNREGA account-holders for any malefactions and misdoings with the account.
- Social security measures: A provision was created in 2008 to cover the beneficiaries under two measures- Janashree Bima Yojana (JBY) or the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY). These were introduced as a social security provision for the beneficiaries.
- Demand-driven approach: Beneficiaries are entitled to decide the time at which they want to work. Allotment and planning of work is determined accordingly.
Stay tuned for part II of the blog