It was a scheme that was supposed to guarantee jobs for at least 100 days to people living in rural areas to address issues of poverty.
Launched in Tamil Nadu in 2006, after initial hiccups, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA) has now moved way beyond merely providing assured employment, to actually creating assets in the State. Granted, there have been murmurs about the scheme triggering a labour crunch in the farm and industry sectors, besides lack of payment of full wages in some areas, but the government is seized of the matter and has already introduced various checks and balances to make the scheme foolproof. Also look at the sheer scale of the project — it has put money in the pockets of lakhs of families, particularly the women and the differently-abled. The figures are mind-boggling.
In Tamil Nadu, the scheme was first launched in six districts on February 2, 2006. Two years later, it was implemented in all districts covering 12,524 village panchayats.
Of the 1.05 crore families in rural areas, 90.98 lakh applied for jobs under the NREGA and 1.57 crore individuals got job cards. The wage bill from 2006-07 to 2010-11 was Rs 5,760 crore.
In 2011-12, 32.05 crore persondays were created and Rs 2,921.39 crore disbursed as wages. Next year, there were 42.01 crore persondays with a wage bill of Rs 4,127.55 crore.
In other words, Rs 7,048.94 crore in wages were disbursed and 74.06 crore persondays created during 2011-12 and 2012-13. The target for the current financial year is 42 crore persondays, which is the highest in the country. Of this, till July 10, 14.39 crore persondays had been created and a sum of Rs 1,414 crore disbursed as wages.
After it was decided to tie the NREGA with the Total Sanitation Programme, permission was granted to construct 6,01,000 individual toilets under the scheme. Of this, 13,000 toilets have already been constructed, with a budgeted expenditure of Rs 11,100 for each of the toilet. Work on the solid waste management system went towards the asset creation pool in Tamil Nadu.
Going forward, in the next three years — from 2013-14 to 2015-16 — the government has planned to set up village service centres and block level service centres.
In the first phase, during 2013-14, 4,174 village panchayat service centres would be set up each at a cost of Rs 10 lakh and 120 block level service centres each at a cost of Rs 25 lakh.
Last year, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa announced that as many as 15,000 farm ponds would be set up at a cost of Rs 181 crore to address the water problems faced by farmers. This has evoked positive response from farmers in the eight delta districts.
On July 19, 2013, administrative sanction was given to create 18,400 farm ponds.
Shortly thereafter, work on 8,438 ponds started. In fact, work on 2,827 of them has been already completed.
Orders have been issued to construct 50,000 more farm ponds in 23 districts and administrative sanction has been given to 5,080 ponds.
Work on 811 of those ponds is progressing while 117 ponds have been completed.
To monitor the quality of the assets created, 10 State-level quality control inspectors would be appointed.
In all the 31 districts that were declared drought affected, the entitlement of 100 days under NREGA Scheme was raised to 150 days from February 21, 2013 for the financial year 2012-13.
After declaration of drought on March 20 last, nearly 1,575 works have been completed entailing an expenditure of Rs 86 crore. Besides, 26,518 works that will cost Rs 648.64 crore are under way.
In all, 28,093 works that will involve spending of Rs 734.65 crore have been taken up to mitigate the drought in the eight delta districts.