MGNREGA – National Importance, Potential and Challenges

Major Issues in MGNREGA Implementation

Aggregate figures of achievement however, hide several lacunae in the core MGNREGA objectives of people-centred planning, transparency and bottom-up architecture, even in states which are performing well on the employment generation criterion (see Kumar et.al, 2008 for a discussion of such issues related to Andhra Pradesh). It has been observed that wage payments are delayed, works are of a poor quality, there is corruption, contractors tend to find ways to beat the system and planning and social audits do not involve people (see for instance Shah, 2009, Ambasta, 2009, Dreze et.al, 2009). While with the passage of the Act, the bottlenecks of Funds and Functions seemed to have eased up, the lack of functionaries at the cutting edge of implementation has serious consequences for the bottom-up, people-centred architecture of MGNREGA. The shortage of staff and lack of capacity has had an adverse impact on key parameters like high-quality people-centred planning and implementation of works, availability of employment on time, timely measurements and hence timely payments, as shown above. It is clear that the sheer size of the guarantee makes it impossible to be carried out on an “additional charge” syndrome. However, this is precisely what has been happening with MGNREGA. These gaps are reflected in certain trends which are a cause for concern. After 2010-11, there has been a dip in the share of SCs and STs in total employment generated as also in the average person-days of employment generated per household (see charts). Share of employment by Social Group

The National Consortium

It was in such a context that the consortium was born, out of a vision of making NREGA effective by active participation of Civil Society Organizations in planning, implementation and social audit of NREGA works. The National Consortium on NREGA is a loosely federated collective of civil society organisations (CSOs) that have come together to try and make NREGA a success. These CSOs have developed relationships with Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), including Gram Panchayats (GP) and Gram Sabhas (GS), in some of the most backward and neglected districts of India. Reflecting the immense diversity of this vast nation the strategies adopted by the CSOs for building these partnerships have been different in each case. They have supported GPs and GSs in various aspects of planning, implementation and social audit of MNREGA work.