Revamping MGNREGA: a possibility?

A closer analysis of the Draft New Education Policy and the MGNREGA brings tells us that by applying a combined approach of “Employment” and “Education” there will be a possibility to revamp the MGNREGA in the most rational and sustainable way.

MGNREGA: Impression so far

MGNREGA has always been interpreted as an employment guarantee scheme mainly for the poor and uneducated individuals. It has always been looked with a faulty approach of “those who have nothing to earn, have MGNREGA to their rescue”. However, the time has come when we should really change this thought process and bring it to the notice of all that even the educated youth and many more sections can be included under the umbrella of MGNREGA to give it a true meaning.

This move would be feasible from the following perspectives-

  1. Financial feasibility
  2. Utilization of the Human Resource
  3. Widening the horizons of MGNREGA

Let’s list down a few areas

Few areas can be listed here that involve a huge amount of involvement of the workforce and which could give MGNREGA a fresh look and save it from becoming a scheme which puts burden on the government’s piggy. There are certain processes like Census data collection, National Sample Survey, Election Process (conducting an election) and schemes like Mid Day Meal Scheme etc.

We require a huge number of work forces and precious human resource to implement all such policies. However, we always put responsibilities of conducting the elections on the teachers at school level, government employees and such practices have always been there when it comes to the implementation of social sector schemes.

A move towards specialization, a need of an hour, indicates that principally it is wrong to include individuals from any specialized area into the implementation of such schemes just as a workforce. Also, specialization indicates that even the MGNREGA workers need to be given tasks which are more challenging in nature and are equally in the interest of the process of Nation Building. This will also serve the purpose of “Role allocation” in the society which would then materialize into a successful Democracy.

Why not give it a thought?

Taking into consideration the above mentioned points, why is it that we cannot think of changing the tasks of MGNREGA workers and include them in the tasks like collection of Census data, Election process etc? Also, why can’t we think of employing the human resource engaged into various processes, as mentioned above, through MGNREGA? This will actually be an apt decision in the wake of the Demographic Dividend that we are soon going to experience, Skill Development Policy of the government coupled with the generation of employment opportunities.

It was recently reported that the biggest chunk of 6.9 million workers engaged in child, health and rural healthcare schemes, including Anganwadi workers, helpers and ASHA workers, are not even recognized as government employees. In addition, it was reported that UIDAI, which carries out enrolment for the Adhar Program, has hired a huge number of software developers, at least 200 graduates as data entry operators etc. A study by Indian Staffing Federation (ISF) also bring to our notice that 43% of the government-dependent workforce is engaged in temporary jobs with most new entrants working without even any written job contract. Taking into consideration the above mentioned statistics; why is it that we can’t think of employing MGNREGA workers under these heads? Why don’t we change the nature of conventional work allotted to them and impart skills into them for the better utilization of that workforce?

This saves the risk of making youth dependent on the government and also takes our policies away from the monotonous outlook in dealing with the workforce.

By doing this, we would be able to achieve success on certain major fronts –

  1. To make MGNREGA a scheme which focuses on both, “Education” and “Employment”
  2. From preventing the scheme from producing the number of dependents and putting burden of the government.
  3. To make rural youth aware of the fact that “Education” remains the key while it comes to the “Employment”
  4. Inclusion of urban “educated unemployed” youth in the productive activities.
  5. To save the expenditure of the government on various schemes and to increase the output at the same time as we are looking towards MGNREGA as an umbrella scheme.
  6. This will also help us in ensuring the quality of the work.

Such an initiative to bring various tedious processes under one umbrella would be helpful to channelize the workforce in the most required direction. While we move towards experiencing the asset of Demographic Dividend, we also need to make sure that the asset does not turn into a liability and such a panoramic approach towards the goal of “Welfare State” will provide a golden opportunity to even sustain the asset.

Such a combined approach would help us in revamping MGNREGA, making it a scheme of Global standards in true sense and also to find a way forward for the implementation of the most awaited National Education Policy. Also, such an approach will make us respect the “specialization” in any field. After all, such specialization makes it possible for us to maintain the National Integrity as it will make us utilize the workforce in the most unconventional way which could actually prove to be beneficial for the “Youthful India”.

Profile photo of Devyani Deshpande
Devyani holds her MA in Sociology and Public Administration along with a Certificate in Human Rights. She is a NET Qualified Assistant Professor, currently working as a lecturer of Sociology in SP College, Pune.