Misuse of the NREGA
Agriculture is said to be the backbone of the Indian economy, with more than 60% of the population of the country employed in this field. Cultivation is a seasonal affair, where people are employed for only a few months a year. Farming is also extremely unpredictable – just one mild shower or a gust of wind can make you lose all that you have.
Farmers and agricultural laborers generally do not earn enough to make ends meet as they are not employed year round. In the light of this, the Government of India had introduced the NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act). Perhaps a short description of this scheme is necessary here. The NREGA was a plan introduced in 2005. This ACT ensures 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.
There is no denying, the idea behind this scheme is excellent. However, farmers seeking employment found a way to earn money without actually during the work. For example, Raju is an agriculturist with a few acres of land where he is cultivating sugar can, a crop that almost takes a year and a half before it can be harvested. Once he plants the crop, he practically doesn’t have anything to do for almost an entire year. He must wait for a long time before he can sell his crop and receive his income. He must struggle throughout the year to make ends meet. Thankfully, the NREGA comes to his rescue. He is given 100 days of employment with decent wages with which he can live a comfortable life.
Most of the time, he is asked to clear out the dry ponds, and increase the volume such that when the monsoon season comes, the rainwater can be stored in the man made ponds. Raju is content with his work, but he soon begins to slack off. He starts working for only one or two hours in the morning, but he is paid a full day’s wage. During the afternoon, he works on the farms of wealthy landowners, thus earning an extra few rupees. While the fact that he is earning enough to lead a comfortable life is assuring, how he is earning the money is simply unethical. He is being paid for the work that he is not actually doing. Raju is not the only villager who does this – thousands of rural inhabitant all across India follow his example.
This is the big loophole in the NREGA. It is high time that the government looks into this matter. Those who really deserve financial aid do not receive it. While it is important for the government to look after the welfare of the citizens of the country, it should also ensure that people do not utilize such schemes in the negative manner.