More work days but poor asset creation in job guarantee scheme

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 31 2010, 06:09am hrs
Latest data on the employment guarantee scheme reveal a marginal improvement in the number of work days per household, but expose the poor utility of the programme when it comes to creating durable physical assets in the economy. Nearly 84% of the total expenditure on the programme goes towards payment of wages, indicating that projects taken up hardly involve procurement of work materials to build infrastructure.

Under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the average number of days of work provided per household in 2009-10 was around 54, up from 43 in 2006-07, the year the programme was launched.

The performance review committee, which took stock of the scheme recently, discussed state-wise data showing AP leading the pack, generating nearly 43 days of work in the first half of last year, followed by Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat.

The worst performers are Kerala, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu with the average number of person days generated around 15 days. In the participation of women in the programme, however, Kerala, TN and Rajasthan are better performers. In first two months of this fiscal, the average number of work days per household was 24.

Though this is indeed an improvement over how the scheme fared in the corresponding period of last year, it might nevertheless not imply a dramatic change as April-May usually see brisk activity on the farm front.

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been stressing that MNREGA is more than a dole programme and actually aims at the creation of assets on the ground, the monitoring committee report paints a dismal picture.

Nearly 84% of the total expenditure of the programme, is on the payment of wages, not on any work material. Of the total 50.24 lakh works taken up under MNREGA, only 20,000 have been completed.

Water conservation cornered the lions share of the funds, with 52% of the works commissioned for that purpose. Roads are the next big item of expenditure with 21% of these funds going towards rural connectivity.

Irrigation, which was supposed to benefit from the programme has only cornered 10% of the fund. Rural development minister CP Joshis pet project, setting up Rajiv Gandhi Seva Kendras, has shown the worst record of progress.