Leveraging MGNREGA for Drought Proofing in Maharashtra

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Session II: Experiences on Combating Drought through MGNREGA

In this session, presentations were made by different resource persons. Mr Crispino Lobo of Watershed Organization Trust (WOTR) made a presentation on MGNREGA Experience of Jalna and Dhule:  Process and impacts.  He said that there is huge demand for wage employment and soil and water conservation activities. The scope and need is high but relative to this the volume of work being done is quite low. Initially, WOTR takes up activities like awareness building around the community’s livelihood needs, environmental issues, exposure visits to villages which have successfully managed their resources. It then provides training. In addition to the Rozgar Sevak there is a Vasundahara Sevak or the Panlot Sevak. These two persons, who belong to the same Gram Panchayat, together provide the administrative and technical back up to all activities in the Gram Panchayat. With systematic planning, putting in community knowledge and experience and coupling it with technical expertise a comprehensive watershed plan is prepared. Then this plan is divided into a sub-activity plan which is spread over a smaller area and across years. The impacts are easily seen in terms of rise in water table; decrease in distress migration and increase in agricultural production with farming in the rabi season. He spelt out some issues for the consideration of GoM:

  • Agriculture personnel are more busy with administrative tasks and less with technical works.
  • Pay Order has to be generated based on the Measurement Book, muster software and needs to be backed by a decision support system so that routine decisions need not go to officers for sanction. This can save time and smoothen the process of programme delivery.
  • Rozgar Sevak are made to travel to the block but are not being given travel allowance.
  • It is necessary to give one time sanction to the Detailed Project Report.
  • Review meetings at Block, District is necessary to sort out issues.

Mr. Narendranath from PRADAN, spoke on PRADAN: MGNREGA Experience in Bankura. He said that PRADAN is working closely with communities and Gram Panchayats in West Bengal. Awareness building is fundamental. He said that PRADAN has set up an MGNREGA implementation committee in their villages. Self Help Groups work as implementation agencies – giving work orders, maintaining musters, making measurements and payments. There are well developed software applications for preparing estimates and planning. PRADAN’s tea, prepares a comprehensive livelihood plan for each household which is centred around MGNREGA convergence with agriculture, horticulture, fisheries etc. He said that an NRM plan is converted into finite micro projects. There are also well designed training and planning tools. Review meetings are held regularly: weekly at village level, fortnightly at GP and block level and monthly at district level. His recommendation was that process facilitation by CSOs gives value addition. Training and exposure plays an important role. Technical support at GP level is necessary. Computerisation of the work flow is necessary.

Mr. A. Ravindra, WASSAN made a presentation on MGNREGA and Agriculture. He said that it is important to work on soil health. Water holding capacity of the soil is an important indicator of soil health which is the basis of drought proofing. Organic matter is an important factor for this. We do household level integrated planning and the architecture of the programme has MGNREGA embedded in it. Of all the expenditure for the integrated natural resource based livelihood planning, more than 50% expenditure comes from MGNREGA.

Mr. Shailesh Vyas of Sahjeevan made a presentation on Experience of Combating Drought in Kutch. He said that Sahjeevan have demonstrated an alternative model in the form of a drought proofing programme that was implemented in the drought of 2002-03 in 30 villages. Sahjeevan also got a comprehensive analysis undertaken of the drought relief manual and proposed implementing strategies to incorporate drought proofing. One of the proposals is that all the villages have a master plan prepared well before a drought happens so as to ensure that productive works are taken up. He proposed that rural youth are trained as para-water technicians to be able to implement these plans in droughts.

Dr. Himanshu Kulkarni of ACWADAM, Pune spoke on The Groundwater Situation in Drought Prone Districts of Maharashtra. While planning a watershed it is important to understand the limitations and potential of the underlying rock structure. For drought proofing, aquifer recharge, developing wells and renovating old tanks is useful. Groundwater management has three elements – watershed for groundwater recharge, protection of recharge and efficient use of the resources. He said suggested that a cluster of 10 to 12 villages is a more appropriate unit for planning. He further recommended that springshed management especially for Konkan, hilly regions is viable in Maharashtra.

The gathering was joined by Mr. Harshavardhan Patil Cabinet Minister for Cooperatives and Agricultural Marketing, GoM. He was also the formed EGS Minsiter of the state. In his address he said that there is a need for a separate department for implementing MGNREGA and productive assets have to be planned. He assured the delegates that he would help in taking up issues highlighted during the consultation in Sub Committee of the Cabinet.

Pramathesh Ambasta made a presentation on SPS work on MGNREGA in MP with GoMP. He said that labour working on MGNREGA is not only the landless labour but landed labour as well. These are small and marginal farmers who work on their farms and work as labourers on MGNREGA sites too. Government of Madhya Pradesh had launched a scheme to work with Civil Society Organisations as PIA for watershed with MGNREGA for a period of 5 years. Highlighting frequent changes in policy as negatively impacting the scheme, he said that earlier PIAs were to get 10% for administrative expenses and 5% towards training costs and rest (85% of total project cost) would go into the Village Committee. But with the 6% cap by Central Government, this arrangement was not feasible. Later 1% of total costs or Rs.60 per 500 ha for DPR preparation with a maximum of 5000 ha area was planned. He said that delays in sanctions and release and issues related to work in forest land were problems. He spoke about the experience of SPS working in partnership with GoM in Melghat of Maharashtra as a successful example of government collaboration with civil society which could be further mainstreamed.

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