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Legal Analysis of Rural Development Schemes in India

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act

Introduction:
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act or MGNREGA is an Indian job guarantee scheme, enacted by legislation on August 25, 2005. The scheme provides a legal guarantee for one hundred days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public workrelated unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage of Rs.60 per day.

This act was introduced with an aim of improving the purchasing power of the rural people, primarily semi or un-skilled work to people living in rural India .MGNREGA is designed as a safety net to reduce migration by rural poor households in the lean period through .It is an important step towards realisation of the right to work. It is expected to enhance people‘s livelihood security on a sustained basis, by developing economic and social infrastructure in rural areas.

MGNREGA is the flagship programme of the UPA Government that directly touches lives of the poor and promotes inclusive growth. The Act aims at enhancing livelihood security of households in rural areas of the country. MGNREGA is the first ever law internationally, that guarantees wage employment at an unprecedented scale. Dr. Jean Drčze, a Belgian born economist, at the Delhi School of Economics, has been a major influence on this project. Aruna Roy was one of the chief campaigners for the original scheme[1]

Criticism Of Mgnrega:
Despite its progress in improved implementation and governance, the MGNREGA still has to deal with the corruption and other improprieties that have come to be associated with any Govt. program in India. The CAG review said in as many as 70% of the villages checked, there were no proper records available on number of households who demanded jobs and the actual number of people who benefited from the job guarantee scheme.

Some major criticisms are as follows:
  • MGNREGA is just a way of redistribution of Income:
    There is some truth to the criticism that this act is just a way of redistributing the income rather than making any lasting improvements in the rural infrastructure. Even its main proponents are silent on the details of the infrastructure projects successfully completed through the program and the benefits of such projects to the local communities. A majority of the supporters only show its effectiveness in improving governance procedures and making people aware of their rights. This is, however, more an offshoot of the successful implementation of the Right to Information act in the MGNREGA program than the MGNREGA itself. [2]
     
  • Long term dependency of the poor on the Government:
    It would just create a long term dependency among the poor on the largesse of the Govt. If the works are only of marginal importance, and involve mainly the equivalent of digging and filling the ground, it would be such a huge waste of human potential and resources.
     
  • A Vote Bank called MGNREGS :
    With the new changes in store, chances are the rural jobs scheme will become a vehicle for gigantic expenditures in the name of the poor with very little money actually going to the poor
     
  • Misuse of public Funds:
    The apparent misuse of much larger amounts of public funds rarely gets much mention in the press, especially when it pertains to expenditure that is likely to benefit the urban elite, such as major new highways or new airports. But on the relatively small amount of money spent on MGNREGA there have been shrill and adverse allegations in the media from the very start.
     
  • Lack of Administrative Capacity:
    The lack of the administrative capacity to run this scheme in the desired decentralised manner and the need to build this capacity quickly and effectively. The main deficiency was the lack of adequate administrative and technical manpower at the Block and GP levels, especially the Programme Officer, Technical Assistants, and Employment Guarantee Assistants. The programme so far has not done what it was supposed to do to the full extent, mainly because of the shortage of administrative and technical staff. Therefore is the urgent need to ensure more administrative assistance for the programme at all levels, which really means both resources and personnel devoted to the actual implementation, monitoring and financial management of the programme. [3]
     
  • Absence of Effective Grievance Redressal System:
    The major problem with MGNREGA is that there is absolute absence of an effective grievance redressal system. The common labourers are not aware to whom to submit their grievances and what will happen to that. Although the government of India recently passed an ombudsman order, but there are also many loopholes.

Advantages Of Mgnrega
The Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) introduced by the UPA Government was actually not appreciated by the people in the beginning and many argued that the scheme has not yielded positive results. When this scheme was facing criticism from many sides including CAG, a detailed examination made by the Indian Institute of Science along with other reputed institutes suggested that this government scheme has in fact generated environmental advantages in many states. MGNREGA was recently in the news for poor execution and wastage of money. The CAG report founded that only 31% of 130 lakh works worth INR 1.26 lakh crore was actually completed.[4]

However, the IISc report made by GIZ and ministry of rural development, evaluates the impact from an environmental viewpoint. The study is actually based on the ground reality of the scheme in 5 states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The current situation of sites selected in every state are equated with pre-MGNREGA situations (2006-07) for factors like ground water level, soil organic carbon, soil erosion, and biomass. The parameters are equated with control states and regions where the scheme is not implemented.[5]

The valuation found that the majority of the works in Karnataka, AP, MP and Rajasthan were related with water conservation like water harvesting, irrigation, drought proofing and renovation of customary water bodies. The assessment concludes that the ground water level along with the drinking water availability has actually improved in these regions due to MGNREGA projects.

Moreover, other works like percolation tanks, check dams and de-silting of water tanks have in fact contributed to an upsurge in the region irrigated by bore wells. These MGNREGA benefits have also led to augmented crop output in 30 villages evaluated by the assessment.

Drought proofing tasks such as horticulture development and afforestation has led to an upsurge in the overall forest cover. Moreover, in 32 out of 40 study villages, trees such as Neem, Dalbergia and fruit yielding trees such as mango, guava, lemon and jackfruit have been harvested on common property resources and individual farm lands. The authorities of the report have established that the woodlands have an ability to impound carbon in the future which can assist in dealing with climate change and its impact. There are other benefits such as guaranteed 100 days of compensation employment in a year to a rural family whose adult members agree to do unskilled physical work.[6]

Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana – 2000

Introduction:
The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana or PMGSY is a nationwide plan in India to provide good all-weather road connectivity to unconnected villages. It is under the authority of the Ministry of Rural Development and was begun on 25 December 2000. In order to implement this, an Online Management & Monitoring System or OMMS GIS system was developed to identify targets and monitor progress. It is developed by e-governance department of C-DAC pune and is one of the biggest databases in India.[7]

Goals:
The goal was to provide roads to all villages with a population of 1000 persons and above by 2003, with a population of 500 persons and above by 2007, in hill states, tribal and desert area villages with a population of 500 persons and above by 2003, and in hill states, tribal and desert area villages with a population of 250 persons and above by 2007. [8]

Objectives
The primary objective of the PMGSY is to provide Connectivity, by way of an All-weather Road (with necessary culverts and cross-drainage structures, which is operable throughout the year), to the eligible unconnected Habitations in the rural areas, in such a way that all Unconnected Habitations with a population of 1000 persons and above are covered in three years (2000-2003) and all Unconnected Habitations with a population of 500 persons and above by the end of 2007.

In respect of the Hill States (North-East, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttaranchal) and the Desert Areas (as identified in the Desert Development program) as well as the Tribal (Schedule V) areas, the objective would be to connect Habitations with a population of 250 persons and above. The PMGSY will permit the Upgradation (to prescribed standards) of the existing roads in those Districts where all the eligible Habitations of the designated population size have been provided all-weather road connectivity.

Policy Based Implementation:

Restructuring and strengthening NHAI for expeditious implementation of the expanded NHDP. To set reasonable target for the National Highway component of the total network over the next 20 years and work out a phased program of expanding of NH to achieve the objective. Employing higher maintenance standards to reduce the frequency of reconstruction of capacity and to preserve road assets already created.

The strategy to focus on optimum utilization of the existing capacities rather than creating new capacities. Ensuring balanced development of the entire network i.e. NHs, SHs, MDRs, ODRs and village roads. Adopting an effective policy mechanism for accelerated land acquisition, utility shifting, and environmental protection to ensure time bound implementation of road projects. Taking up on BOT basis all contracts for high density corridors under NHDP III. Developing NH in inaccessible areas and areas of strategic importance through GBS. Improving capacities of implementing agencies- NHAI, BRO and State PWDs. Strengthening the institutional mechanism through setting up of the National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board as an apex body in order to ensure safety along with free flow of traffic.[9]

Advantages:
  1. Provision of better connectivity of farm to market community The construction of the PMGSY roads has greatly benefited the farmers. Prior to the construction of the PMGSY roads, farmers found it difficult to sell agricultural goods in the bigger markets that are located at a distance from their villages
  2. PMGSY road connectivity has led to a better transport system during all seasons. This impact has been greatly felt in the states of West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Assam etc.
  3. Value addition to the local produce in cottage industries and entrepreneurial units of the village hence a boon to the rural populace. The PMGSY roads had a positive impact on the agricultural 4. Infrastructure as habitations are now using motorized equipments such as tractors, threshing machines for cultivation leading to a more efficient, time saving and profitable process of cultivation
  4. The PMGSY roads have made it easier to transport chemical fertilizers, seeds and pesticides. Increased use of these items was observed in Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal
  5. Besides, road connectivity has led to expansion of local industries, which in turn has generated employment opportunities.

Disadvantages:
Despite the one full decade of PMGSY, the percentage of unconnected habitations decreased only slightly from 37.2% to 29.9%. While the total number of unconnected habitations fell by about 8 percentage points, those with population less than 500, at nearly 40%, hardly moved. This is understandable given the fact that scarce resources means that political priorities would always favor connecting the larger habitations But this also means that the remotest and most backward habitations, especially those in the tribal areas, are likely to remain the least priority areas and amongst the last to be connected. Apart from the fact that the smaller habitations are more likely to be the farthest and therefore the most costliest to connect.

The quality of a major portion of these roads are doubtful. This means that a considerable share of the roads constructed in the first half of the decade are now not motor able. In other words, the additions conceal the fact that a number of them are becoming un-motor able with each passing year. The concept of connectivity is dynamic, since with time roads develop pot-holes and require wholesale relaying.

It is certain that the connecting roads for a significant share of the 70% or so connected habitations are likely to have fallen into such a state of dis-repair as to be reclassified as unconnected! Further, in the absence of any maintenance contract, there is no workable mechanism available to ensure continuous operability of these roads[10]

The National Rural Health Mission (2005-12)

Introduction:
The National Rural Health Mission (2005-12) seeks to provide effective healthcare to rural population throughout the country with special focus on 18 states, which have weak public health indicators and/or weak infrastructure. The Mission is an articulation of the commitment of the Government to raise public spending on Health from 0.9% of GDP to 2-3% of GDP. It aims to undertake architectural correction of the health system to enable it to effectively handle increased allocations as promised under the National Common Minimum program and promote policies that strengthen public health management and service delivery in the country.

The mission seeks to revitalize local health traditions and mainstream AYUSH into the public health system. It aims at effective integration of health concerns with determinants of health like sanitation & hygiene, nutrition, and safe drinking water through a District Plan for Health. It seeks to improve access of rural people, especially poor women and 
children, to equitable, affordable, accountable and effective primary healthcare. [11]

Objectives
  • Reduction in Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) Universal access to public health services such as Women’s health, child health, water, sanitation & hygiene, immunization, and Nutrition
  • Prevention and control of communicable and non-communicable diseases, including locally endemic diseases
  • Access to integrated comprehensive primary healthcare
  • Population stabilization, gender and demographic balance.
  • Revitalize local health traditions and mainstream AYUSH [12]
Outlay:
The Mission is conceived as an umbrella program subsuming the existing programs of health and family welfare, including the RCH- II, National Disease Control programs for Malaria, TB, Kala Azar, Filaria, Blindness & Iodine Deficiency and Integrated Disease Surveillance program. The Budget Head For NRHM shall be created in B.E. 2006-07 at National and State levels. Initially, the vertical health and family welfare programs shall retain their Sub-Budget Head under the NRHM.

The Outlay of the NRHM for 2005-06 is in the range of Rs.6700 crores. The Mission envisages an additionally of 30% over existing Annual Budgetary Outlays, every year, to fulfill the mandate of the National Common Minimum program to raise the Outlays for Public Health 
from 0.9% of GDP to 2-3% of GDP The States are expected to raise their contributions to Public Health Budget by minimum 10% p.a. to support the Mission activities. Funds shall be released to States through SCOVA, largely in the form of Financial Envelopes, with weightage to 18 high focus States.

Implementation Strategies:
  • Train and enhance capacity of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) to own, control and manage public health services
  • Promote access to improved healthcare at household level through the female health activist (ASHA).
  • Health Plan for each village through Village Health Committee of the Panchayat and strengthening sub-center through an untied fund to enable local planning and action and more Multi Purpose Workers (MPWs).
  • Strengthening existing PHCs and CHCs, and provision of 30-50 bedded CHC per lakh population for improved curative care to a normative standard (Indian Public Health Standards defining personnel, equipment and management standards).Preparation and Implementation of an inter-sectoral District Health Plan prepared by the District Health Mission, including drinking water, sanitation & hygiene and nutrition. [13]
     
Advantages:
  • Infant Mortality Rate has reduced to 30/1000 live births and theMaternal Mortality Ratio reduced to 100/100,000 Total Fertility Rate reduced to 2.1
  • Malaria mortality reduction rate –50% upto 2010, additional 10% by 2012 . Kala Azar mortality reduction rate: 100% by 2010 and sustaining elimination until 2012 Filaria/Microfilaria reduction rate: 70% by 2010, 80% by 2012 and elimination by 2015
  • Upgrading of Community Health Centers to Indian Public Health Standards and Increase utilization of First Referral Units from less than 20% to 75% also engaging 250,000 female Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) in 10 States.
End-Notes:
  1. Basu Kaushik The Oxford Companion to Economics in India‘ 2007
  2. Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey (activists with Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghtan) – NREGA: Breaking New Ground‘ – The Hindu: Magazine – June 21, 200
  3. Comptroller and Auditor General’s report –“MGNREGA Performance report 2012”
  4. Indian Institute of Science ‘s report –“Benefits of NREGA to the environment”
  5. Tanushree Sood (a researcher with the office of commissioner to the Supreme Court) – NREGA: Challenges and Implementation
  6. Jina, Afra (3 November 2018). "UP Agriculture - Need for Transparent Agricultural Scheme". Get news on PM's schemes, central and state government schemes, central ministries and government departments. Retrieved 8 November 2018
  7. PMGSY Scheme Operations Manual Chapter 1". Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India
  8. CRISP Group, National Informatics Centre (2004) "Rural Informatics in India – An Approach Paper"
  9. https://rural.nic.in/sitesPMGSY17Nov2017
  10. 2 Mudur G. India launches national rural health mission. BMJ 330-930
  11. John SO. Health care is paradox in India. BMJ 2005; 330: 1330.
  12. Lodha R, Dash NR, Kapil A, Kabra SK. Health in urban slums in north India. Lancet 2000;15: 355: 204.
Written By: Jairaj Singh Rathore, a student of University School of Law & Legal Studies, GGS Indraprastha University, Delhi110403
E-mail – [email protected]

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