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National Rural Employment Guarantee Act

Implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development - External website that opens in a new window, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) - External website that opens in a new window is the flagship programme of the Government that directly touches lives of the poor and promotes inclusive growth. The Act aims at enhancing livelihood security of households in rural areas of the country by providing at least one hundred days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

The Act came into force on February 2, 2006 and was implemented in a phased manner. In Phase one it was introduced in 200 of the most backward districts of the country. It was implemented in an additional 130 districts in Phase two 2007-2008. As per the initial target, NREGA was to be expanded countrywide in five years. However, in order to bring the whole nation under its safety net and keeping in view the demand, the Scheme was extended to the remaining 274 rural districts of India from April 1, 2008 in Phase III.

National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) - External website that opens in a new window is the first ever law internationally, that guarantees wage employment at an unprecedented scale. The primary objective of the Act is augmenting wage employment. Its auxiliary objective is strengthening natural resource management through works that address causes of chronic poverty like drought, deforestation and soil erosion and so encourage sustainable development. The process outcomes include strengthening grassroots processes of democracy and infusing transparency and accountability in governance.

With its rights-based framework and demand driven approach, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) - External website that opens in a new window marks a paradigm shift from the previous wage programmes. The Act is also a significant vehicle for strengthening decentralization and deepening processes of democracy by giving a pivotal role to the Panchayati Raj Institutions in planning, monitoring and implementation. Unique features of the ACT include, time bound employment guarantee and wage payment within 15 days, incentive-disincentive structure to the State Governments for providing employment as 90 per cent of the cost for employment provided is borne by the Centre or payment of unemployment allowance at their own cost and emphasis on labour intensive works prohibiting the use of contractors and machinery. The Act also mandates 33 percent participation for women. Over the last two years, implementation trends vindicate the basic objective of the Act.

Increasing Employment Opportunities: In 2007-08, 3.39 crore households were provided employment and 143.5 crore person days were generated in 330 districts. In 2008-2009, upto July, 253 crore households have been provided employment and 85.29 crore person days have been generated.

Enhancing Wage Earning and Impact on Minimum Wage: The enhanced wage earnings have lead to strengthening of the livelihood resource base of the rural poor in India; in 2007-2008, more than 68% of funds utilised were in the form of wages paid to the labourers. In 2008-2009, 73% of the funds have been utilized in the form of wages.

Increasing Outreach to the poor: Self targeting in nature, the Programme has high works participation of marginalized groups like SC/ST (57%), women (43%) in 2007-2008. In 2008-2009, upto July, the participation is SC/ST (54%) and women (49%), strengthening Natural Resource Base of Rural India: In 2007-08, 17.88 lakh works have been undertaken, of which 49% were related to water conservation. In 2008-2009, upto July, 16.88 lakh works have been undertaken, of which 49% are related to water conservation.

Financial Inclusion of the poor: The Central government has been encouraging the state governments to make wage payment through bank and post office accounts of wage seekers. Thus far, 2.9 crore (upto July '08) NREGA bank and post office accounts have been opened to disburse wages. The Ministry is also encouraging the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) - External website that opens in a new window workers to obtain insurance under Jan Shri Bima Yojana.

Initial evidence through independent studies indicates enhancement of agricultural productivity (through water harvesting, check dams, ground water recharging, improve moisture content, check in soil erosion and micro-irrigation), stemming of distress migration, increased access to markets and services through rural connectivity works, supplementing household incomes, Increase in women workforce participation ratios and the regeneration of natural resources.

The vision of the Ministry is enabling NREGA become a transformative vehicle of empowering local communities to enhance their livelihood security. The Ministry has taken several steps to ensure the Scheme is implemented effectively like encouraging decentralized participatory management, improving delivery systems and public accountability.

The Rozgar Jagrookta Puruskar award has been introduced to recognize outstanding Contributions by Civil society Organizations at State, District, Block and Gram Panchayat levels to generate awareness about provisions and entitlements and ensuring compliance with implementing processes.

Building Capacity to implement a demand driven scheme

To strengthen the capacity and give priority to the competencies required for effective planning, work execution, public disclosure and social audits the Ministry has been conducting training for NREGA functionaries, Thus far, 6.2 lakh PRI functionaries and 4.82 lakh vigilance and monitoring committees have been trained (upto July'08). The Central Government is also providing technical support in key areas of communication, training, work planning, IT, social audits and fund management at all levels of implementation to the state governments.

Using IT for reaching out and inclusion

Web enabled Management Information System (MIS) is one of the largest data base rural households through their engagement in National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) - External website that opens in a new window. MIS places all critical parameters such as shelf of projects, sanctioned works, wage payments, number of days of employment provided and works under execution on line for easy public access. The data engineered software has been designed for cross verification of records and generation of alerts to support proactive response by management.

Evolving processes for transparency and public accountability

Monitoring and Evaluation: The Ministry has set up a comprehensive monitoring system. This year, 260 National Level Monitors and Area Officers have undertaken field visits to each of the 330 Phase I and Phase II districts at least once.

For effective monitoring of the projects 100% verification of the works at the Block level, 10% at the District level and 2% at the State level inspections need to be ensured.

Road Map for Further Strengthening of NREGA

Setting up of the Task force on Convergence: In order to optimize the multiplier effects of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) - External website that opens in a new window, the Ministry has set up a Task Force to look at the possibility of convergence of programmes like National Horticulture Mission, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, Bharat Nirman, Watershed Development with NREGA. These convergence efforts will add value to NREGA, works and aid in creating durable efforts and also enable planned and coordinated public investments in rural areas.

Source: National Portal Content Management Team, Reviewed on: 18-02-2011