NREGA creates jobs to create more jobs

Written by Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 17 2009, 04:53am hrs
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At a time when corporate world is pruning work forces to brave the economic downturn, job opportunities in rural India appear to be looking up. Atleast the ministry of rural development figures suggest so.

Thanks to the UPAs governments mega National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), more than 2.69 lakh people have been recruited by the state governments for providing vital assistance to the implementation of such a huge scheme where more than Rs 39,000 crore have been spend during the last three years.

Rural development officials say number of people getting employment would go up further over the next few months as an implementation of job guarantee scheme, which for the first time guarantees minimum 100 days of wage employment to each of the rural poor families.

A major chunk of recruitments comes at gram panchayat-level for Gram Rozgar Sahayak, who assists the head of the gram panchayat in implementation of the scheme. NREGA stipulates that atleast 50% of works need to be executed by gram panchayats. As many as 2.3 lakh Rozgar Sahayaks or assistants at village levels have joined the state governments workforce on contract basis.

Significant number of engineers or technical assistants have also been appointed at block-level. The latest government figure says 38,619 engineers, mostly diploma holders, have joined the NREGA implementation team across states. Within a year or two, there would be is big team of engineers with vital work experience available to the corporate sector, Amita Sharma, ministry of rural development joint secretary and in charge of implementation of NREGA, told FE.

The rural development ministry, the nodal agency to implement NREGA, is mandated to allocate 90% of the funds to states for taking up various works related to water conservation at the rural areas of the country.

For ensuring transparency and accountability in the implementation, information technology is being widely used. Recruitment of large number of people at village-level definitely brings in transparency in the process of implementation, Amir Ullah Khan, economist, India Development Foundation, a Gurgaon-based think tank said.

Due to extensive use of information technology, 8,519 computer assistants at district-level and 1,040 IT managers have also been roped in for NREGA. For grievance redressal, 2,918 coordinators have joined the huge NREGA workforce across all the 615 districts in the country. Besides, 1,657 works managers and 701 accounts managers at district-levels have also been taken into the workforce.

Creating jobs at rural areas would definitely to an extent offset jobs losses due to slow down in the construction as well as textile sector, said Sonal Varma, India Economist, Nomura.

Both Khan and Varma agreed that due these employment creation besides more than 5 crore people getting atleast 100 days of jobs guarantee each year, would definitely push up demand for rural non-durable goods.

Since its launch in February 2006, the government has spend more than Rs 40,000 crore under NREGA, out of more than Rs 26,000 crore is towards payment of wages. Twenty-one lakh jobs mostly relating to water conservation have been taken up under NREGA.

The rural development ministry data also suggest that due to NREGA, the average daily manual wage has risen from Rs 75 during 2007-8 to Rs 85 at present. According to experts, this also keep up the demand of goods and services in the rural areas. In a significant move towards financial inclusion, more than 5 crore savings bank accounts in the banks and post offices have been opened for the payment of NREGA wage.