The Hindu, Jaipur, July 20, 2008

Also an increase in incomes of the local population in Sirohi district of Rajasthan

JAIPUR: An assessment of the impact of the much talked-about National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in Sirohi district of Rajasthan has revealed a sharp decline in migration and a substantial increase in the incomes of the local population in the wake of introduction of the jobs scheme. The district, bordering Gujarat, is a tribal-dominated area where unemployment has been rampant and migration of labour a regular feature during the lean season.

A 2Qs (quality and quantity) assessment of NREGS in Sirohi, one of the first six districts brought under the scheme in Rajasthan, by the CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research and Training (CUTS CART) in partnership with the World Bank has revealed 97 per cent employment for the inhabitants in their own villages during the lean season. The scheme has helped bring down migration by 93 per cent and helped improve facilities in the villages by 94 per cent.

The findings were presented at a high-level meeting held here to share the key findings of the assessment. Even while there were many gaps detected in the scheme including those pertaining to lack of proper awareness among the people on their entitlements and no full utilisation of allocated funds, its positive impact showed monthly income of the local people going up by 87 per cent and the labourers’ bargaining power gaining new heights.

With 1.48 lakh households carrying job cards, Sirohi district had an allotment of Rs.7,570 lakh for the year 2007-08 while the spending remained at Rs.2,509 lakh. A total of 84,561 persons sought work under the scheme and almost all — 84,537 of them — were provided the same.

CUTS director George Cheriyan, who presented an overview of the project, said lack of awareness (63 per cent) was found to be a major reason for lower participation of labourers in the scheme. “There seems to be an information gap. We found only 4,840 persons who made use of the scheme completing 100 days of work. That is a mere 5 per cent,” he noted. The lack of awareness about entitlements was as high as 63 per cent.

Om Prakash Arya, who presented the key findings, said the study also revealed an absence of local participation in decision-making and low satisfaction levels (50 per cent) on the process of measurement of work. There was no effective grievance redress mechanism in place, he said. 48 per cent of the workers were found unhappy about the transparency and accountability. There was also a shortage of implementation staff, he pointed out.

State Additional Chief Secretary A.K. Pande, who attended the meeting, said: “We accept the findings and the recommendations as there is no point to differ.”

World Bank representative Benjamin Powis, too, felt that further institutionalisation of the scheme would add to its effectiveness.