KOTTAYAM: There is a sharp decline in money-borrowing from local money lenders and private lending institutions in Ernakulam since the commencement of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), says a study conducted by the School of International Relations and Politics (SIRP) at the Mahatma Gandhi University here.
The MGNREG scheme has made headway in Ernakulam district, stresses the Impact Assessment Study conducted by the SIRP during 2014-15. The study sought to assess the role and influence of the scheme in poverty reduction, social and economic empowerment of marginalised groups and women’s empowerment besides quantifying the nature and utility of assets created and the contribution of the scheme in improving agriculture and natural resources. It also evaluated the level of achievements made in financial inclusion, to identify and document the best practices and innovations under the scheme, comprehend the level of empowerment it has brought in strengthening grass-root level democracy and facilitating governance reforms.
According to principal coordinator of the study Prof K M Seethi, also the SIRP director, the MGNREG scheme has been a milestone from the perspective of women’s empowerment.
Though the scheme is committed to ensuring 33% of women participation, the share of this component in Ernakulam was 96% in the select 20 grama panchayats, where the study was undertaken covering all the 14 blocks in the district.
The scheme has provided a window of opportunities for women and marginalised communities.
It has not only strengthened a vibrant civic sphere by setting a new track of social capital, but also substantially changed the prevailing stereotypes about ‘labour’, and enormously enhanced the confidence of the working class, by giving a new meaning to dignity of labour, observes the study. The MGNREG scheme has also provided a new meaning to ‘right to work’ and livelihood security.
Weaker sections as well as marginalised communities experienced increased mobility and enhanced public consciousness, providing a fresh impetus for social inclusion, the study underlines.
However, the study points out that the task of financial inclusion remains a challenging task due to several problems such as weak financial delivery infrastructure, lack of financial awareness, prevalence of informal sources of financial services, low levels of income, distance from the financial institutions etc.
The study says that though the implementation of the MGNREGA remains a challenging one, there is strong evidence to suggest that the scheme has immensely contributed to the economic and social empowerment of the rural poor, increased mobility and social dignity of the weaker sections, heightened state intervention for livelihood security and natural resource management, strengthening new domains of social capital, new incentives for cultivation and asset creation, convergence of public works programmes and deepening of the democratisation and grass root level engagements.
The SIRP in cooperation with the State Institute of Rural Development at Kottarakkara has conducted similar studies in Pathanamthitta and Kollam as well.