The government today said it has decided to maintain a 60:40 wage-material ratio for the MGNREGA now at the district level instead of the panchayat level as was the case earlier even as the move drew criticism from activists.
“The ministry has decided to maintain a 60:40 wage- material ratio at the district level now to ensure creation of good quality assets in rural areas,” the Rural Development Ministry said in a statement.
Criticising the move, social activist Nikhil Dey, who is associated with organisations like Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Suchna Evum Rozgar Adhikar Abhiyan and NCPRI, said the move will result in “discrimination” and “discourage” employment-related works.
“This compromises the basic framework of MGNREGA. It means that in certain panchayats, you can do 100 per cent material work while in other panchyats, you can do hundred per cent labour work. This will create a set of politically powerful panchayats.
“Asset creation is required in all panchayats and so is employment. That is why MGNREGA stipulated the 60:40 wage- material ratio for all panchayats. This decision will lead to discrimination among panchayats. In the panchayats where the material component is very high, contractors will not care about providing employment,” he said.
According to sources, the understanding in the government is that while some panchayats may require intensive labour- oriented work, there may be some others where asset creation has to be prioritised. Hence, computation of the wage-material ratio at the district level will facilitate both.
There was a controversy in 2014 when the then Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari had announced that the government will increase the proportion of the material component in the scheme to up to 49 per cent to enable creation of large, durable assets like check dams, etc.
Gadkari had in Parliament expressed an intent to change the ratio of expenditure between labour and material from the current 60:40 applicable at the gram panchayat level to 51:49 applicable at the district level.