Killing Two Birds with One Stone: Expand NREGA

Last month, we posted about the expansion of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) to all districts in India starting on April 1. Even though the government chose to expand this program, the scheme has its share of pros and cons. A recent article in The Economist highlights the strengths of NREGA as its ability to allow participants to self-select themselves, the fact that the majority of participants are from lower castes, and the impact of the scheme in mitigating migration to urban areas.

On the flip side, there are a number of problems that exist with the NREGA, such as corruption, as Prerna previously highlighted. The Centre for Science and Environment put forth a more detailed policy paper on NREGA, as well as a series of suggestions for improving on the program. CSE suggests not only viewing the Act as a means for employment generation, but also thinking about how this can be linked with local development and creating assets for communities. This is an interesting approach, as it recognizes that while the rural population needs employment, there are also a whole host of other issues that the population itself can help in addressing. NREGA can be expanded not just in numbers, but also in terms of what the program can achieve for the rural population of India.

Another problem that CSE brings attention to is the fact that while 769,582 projects are under progress, only 158,277, or about 21%, are actually completed. Read on for CSE’s recommendations.

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Midday Newsfeed

  • Employment: The social justice ministry concluded that the participation ratio of SCs/STs in the NREGA, a rural job scheme, shows that despite the fact that tribals are half the number of Dalits, they consistently outnumber them in the program, and that this needs to be corrected.
  • Environment: The government is working on a formula to compensate states for the environmental damage caused by power projects that sell power outside the states they are located in. The compensation will be paid by the company, agency, or state buying power. (Source: OneWorld South Asia)
  • Health: A Planning Commission report says that India is an attractive destination for health tourists, but that a major obstacle was the unwillingness of insurance companies to pay for treatment in India. Alternative systems of medicine are an added attraction for medical tourists.
  • Technology: More Indian IT firms are moving abroad because they claim it is cheaper to do business elsewhere.