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Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)

Topics Covered: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)

What to study?

For Prelims: Overview, implementation and bodies established under the act.

For Mains: Significance of the law, performance analysis and ways to improve.

Context: A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court demanding full wages for over 7.6 crore active job card holders under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) during the 21-day nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

What the PIL demands?

  1. PIL urged the top court to “issue uniform guidelines to all states, UTs that for the entire duration of the lockdown at least all active and registered job card holders under the MGNREGA Act will be deemed to be at work and accordingly make full payment of their wages at the earliest.”
  2. It also want the apex court to increase the entitlement from 100 days of work to 200 days per household to support rural livelihoods during the emerging economic crisis.
  3. It also requested the top court to direct the Centre and states to issue individual temporary job cards within 15 days to all migrants who have returned from the cities to their native villages.

Why this is necessary?

MGNREGA is a programme meant to be a lifeline to rural workers during this kind of distress circumstances. Therefore, it would be completely unfair to not enable MGNREGA to provide the support that it is designed to give when rural workers are facing the country’s worst challenge of unemployment and limited access to money and foodgrains. Over 12.2 crore labourers work in MGNREGA every year.

About MGNREGA:

The scheme was introduced as a social measure that guarantees “the right to work”. The key tenet of this social measure and labour law is that the local government will have to legally provide at least 100 days of wage employment in rural India to enhance their quality of life.

Key objectives:

  1. Generation of paid rural employment of not less than 100 days for each worker who volunteers for unskilled labour.
  2. Proactively ensuring social inclusion by strengthening livelihood base of rural poor.
  3. Creation of durable assets in rural areas such as wells, ponds, roads and canals.
  4. Reduce urban migration from rural areas.
  5. Create rural infrastructure by using untapped rural labour.

The following are the eligibility criteria for receiving the benefits under MGNREGA scheme:

  1. Must be Citizen of India to seek NREGA benefits.
  2. Job seeker has completed 18 years of age at the time of application.
  3. The applicant must be part of a local household (i.e. application must be made with local Gram Panchayat).
  4. Applicant must volunteer for unskilled labour.

Key facts related to the scheme:

  1. The Ministry of Rural Development (MRD), Govt of India is monitoring the entire implementation of this scheme in association with state governments.
  2. Individual beneficiary oriented works can be taken up on the cards of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, small or marginal farmers or beneficiaries of land reforms or beneficiaries under the Indira Awaas Yojana of the Government of India.
  3. Within 15 days of submitting the application or from the day work is demanded, wage employment will be provided to the applicant.
  4. Right to get unemployment allowance in case employment is not provided within fifteen days of submitting the application or from the date when work is sought.
  5. Social Audit of MGNREGA works is mandatory, which lends to accountability and transparency.
  6. The Gram Sabha is the principal forum for wage seekers to raise their voices and make demands.
  7. It is the Gram Sabha and the Gram Panchayat which approves the shelf of works under MGNREGA and fix their priority.

Role of Gram Sabha:

  1. It determines the order of priority of works in the meetings of the Gram Sabha keeping in view potential of the local area, its needs, local resources.
  2. Monitor the execution of works within the GP.

Roles of Gram Panchayat:

  1. Receiving applications for registration
  2. Verifying registration applications
  3. Registering households
  4. Issuing Job Cards (JCs)
  5. Receiving applications for work
  6. Issuing dated receipts for these applications for work
  7. Allotting work within fifteen days of submitting the application or from the date when work is sought in the case of an advance application.
  8. Identification and planning of works, developing shelf of projects including determination of the order of their priority.

Responsibilities of State Government in MGNREGA:

  1. Frame Rules on matters pertaining to State responsibilities under Section 32 of the Act ii) Develop and notify the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme for the State.
  2. Set up the State Employment Guarantee Council (SEGC).
  3. Set up a State level MGNREGA implementation agency/ mission with adequate number of high calibre professionals.
  4. Set up a State level MGNREGA social audit agency/directorate with adequate number of people with knowledge on MGNREGA processes and demonstrated commitment to social audit.
  5. Establish and operate a State Employment Guarantee Fund (SEGF).

Insta Links:

Prelims Link:

  1. Under MGNREGA, what are the roles of Gram Sabha, Gram Panchayat, States, State Food Commission, Centre?
  2. What are jobs cards, who issues them?
  3. Who sets up SEGF?
  4. What is Wage employement?
  5. Who conducts social audit?

Mains Link:

Discuss the key features and significance of MGNREGA.

Sources: the Hindu.