NEW DELHI: One question everyone asked when the UPA was giving way to Modi Sarkar was: “What will happen to NREGS?” Well, here is the answer. There will be NREGS Mark-II.
Under Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari, the programme is looking set for drastic changes.
As of now, NREGS covers 65,576 blocks all over the country. There is no differentiation between blocks or states on the basis of which one is poorer, or has more landless labour, or any other economic criterion.
Like the old PDS, there were differences in the efficiency of implementation depending on local factors, but as envisaged by New Delhi, it was universally available all over India. Just like the old PDS being tweaked to the new model of targeted PDS, we will get a “Targeted NREGS”. So, instead of 65,576 blocks, the government will identify and zero in on 2,500 blocks characterised by high levels of economic distress and restrict NREGS‘s scope to those.
The total outlay will be divided demarcating how much is used for what. Broadly, 60 percent will be ploughed into the building assets, which reduces to 40 per cent the amount for paying wages for 100 days of work.
Further, there will be narrower focus on how the funds can be used. Now, the kind of work that can be done under NREGS is defined rather loosely as “building rural assets”.
Critics alleged that it encouraged a lot of pseudo-economic activity that created no assets on the ground. The new plan responds to that criticism by defining the kind of activity permitted under NREGS: it will have to create tangible assets in the shape of agriculture-related infrastructure.
Many of the works will necessarily have to be check-dams, canals etc. Alongside, funds can also be used to build main arterial roads and for planting trees along roads and highways.
Eligibility for work under NREGS will also be defined. It will have to be people from marginalised communities, nomadic communities, scheduled and unscheduled tribes, BPL families, women-headed families, families headed by disabled persons and those who have got their dwellings through Indira Awas Yojana. Panchayats will have the power to certify those eligible. Anyone who is in economic distress, but outside of the above mentioned categories is free to apply for work under NREGS, and the panchayat can decide on the eligibility.