Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh have locked horns through official reports of their ministries concerned, over Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). While Sharad Pawar had criticised MGNREGA as a reason for making agriculture costlier, the Review Report of the RD Ministry, however, stresses that the farm labour shortage should not be blamed entirely on MGNREGA, as there are other factors driving away labour to other fields even before the Act was implemented in 2006.
Quoting data from financial year 2010-11, Jairam argues that 70 per cent of the work in the scheme has been generated during the agriculture lean season and cites studies which say that high non-farm wages have a more significant role in the diversion from agriculture than MGNREGA.
He argues that the provision of food security through the Public Distribution System (PDS) has also contributed to the economic scarcity of labour.
As per the report released by the PM on Saturday, the ministry says MGNREGA has rather given the bargaining power to the rural labour working all these decades with suppressed wages. And, on the demand to suspend all MGNREGA works during the peak agriculture seasons, the ministry says it would be unfair to the surplus labour, as it gives them regular wages instead of remaining tied to the debt-bondage and the labour contractors.
It may be recalled that Sharad Pawar had made such a demand last year and Jairam Ramesh had rejected it outrightly. Before this, the two had locked horns over the Dept of Land Resources