A majority of India’s population live below the poverty line and such individuals do not have sufficient funds to provide for the basic necessities of their life. The Government, therefore, introduces different types of social welfare schemes for the benefit of the low income group individuals. One such social security measure, introduced in the year 2005, was the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). The Act was passed in 2005 and the scheme was launched in 2006 when it was renamed to Mahatma Gandhi NREGA or the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Ever since its inception, the MGNREGA scheme has become the largest social security scheme in the world.
What is Mahatma Gandhi NREGA or MGNREGA?
The NREGA scheme is one wherein a minimum employment is guaranteed to the rural population of India. The scheme aims to provide the poor individuals a chance to work and earn a livelihood so that they can provide the basic necessities to their families. Under the NREGA scheme, a minimum of 100 days of paid work should be provided to every rural household of India in one year. The MGNREGA scheme, therefore, provides rural households the right to work and earn a living. Such households can demand work from the Government and then get paid for the work that they do.
How Does the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA Work?
Under MGNREGA, every rural household can register itself to avail of a NREGA Job Card. The NREGA Job Card is issued to all the adult members of a rural household who are willing to provide unskilled labour for earning a living. Once individuals have a NREGA card, they can show the card and demand work from the Government under the MGNREGA scheme. The Government would ensure a minimum of 100 work days in a year and pay the NREGA card holders with the minimum wages for their labour.
Entitlements to Eligible Rural Individuals
Under the NREGA Act, eligible individuals of the rural areas, who can enrol under the MGNREGA scheme have been given legal entitlements. These entitlements ensure that such individuals get proper jobs and a minimum wage for their labour. The entitlements allowed under the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA scheme are as follows –
- Entitlement I – Right to a Job Card
- Entitlement II – Right to Demand and Receive Work within 15 Days
- Entitlement III – Right to Unemployment Allowance
- Entitlement IV – Right to Plan and Prepare a Shelf of Projects
- Entitlement V – Right to Obtain Work Within a Radius of 5 Kms.
- Entitlement VI – Right to Worksite Facilities
- Entitlement VII – Right to Notified Wage Rate
- Entitlement VIII – Right to Receive Wages Within 15 Days
- Entitlement IX – Right to Time-Bound Redress of Grievance and the Right to Conduct Concurrent Social Audits of all MGNREGA expenses
Applying for the NREGA Job Card
Adults, i.e. individuals aged 18 years and above, can apply for the NREGA card by registering under the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA scheme. Registration would have to be done in a prescribed format or on a plain piece of paper. Registration application should be submitted to the Gram Panchayat of the rural area anytime during the year. Once registered, the Gram Panchayat would verify the following details –
- Whether the applicant’s household is a real household as mentioned in the application form
- Whether the household and the applicant are local residents of the Gram Panchayat
- Whether the applicant is an adult member, i.e. aged 18 years and above
This verification should be done within 14 days of submission of the application. Once the verification is complete, the Gram Panchayat would issue the NREGA card to eligible individuals. A NREGA Job Card is valid for 5 years after which it should be renewed with the Gram Panchayat.
Benefits of the MGNREGA Scheme
Some of the main benefits of the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA scheme are as follows –
- The scheme allows the poor population of India to earn a minimum income by providing their services.
- The scheme aims to alleviate the problem of unemployment, especially in the rural sector, by providing people with a minimum guarantee of 100 days of work in a year
- The poor people can use the scheme to alleviate their poverty and lead a normal life.
- The MGNREGA scheme includes women and SC/ST individuals under its scope too. This makes the scheme inclusive allowing even women and low caste individuals a chance to earn a living
- The wage payments under the scheme are done usually through Direct Bank Transfers (DBTs). This has promoted opening of bank accounts in the rural sector and allowed such individuals the access to banking facilities
- The scheme promises unemployment allowance if the NREGA card holders are not provided with the minimum work for 100 days. This ensures that even if the cardholders do not get the entitled job, they would not be cheated out of an income
- The scheme provides employment opportunities to eligible individuals within a 5km radius of their location. If the work is far-off, workers are allowed extra wage for the extra commute
- Wages are paid within 15 days of completion of the work ensuring that individuals get access to funds to meet their livelihood expenses
Work Activities under Mahatma Gandhi NREGA
The MGNREGA scheme covers a wide range of activities under which individuals can seek employment. These activities are specified by the Union Rural Development Ministry and include the following –
- Agricultural and allied activities
- Rural sanitation projects
- Watershed works
- Irrigation and Flood management works
- Livestock related works
- Fisheries and coastal areas related works
- Rural drinking water projects
- Construction of Anganwadi Centres, etc.
In order to bring more individuals under the ambit of the MGNREGA scheme, it has been mandated that a Rozgar Diwas should be organised by every Gram Panchayat every month. The District Programme Coordinator should ensure that Rozgar Diwas is organized with all the necessary protocols representing at least 25% NREGA Job Card holders in the area so that individuals can enrol under a NREGA Job Card and existing NREGA card holders can put forward their grievances if they have any.
The MGNREGA scheme, therefore, aims to provide a source of income to the rural population so that they can access basic necessities and improve their standard of living. This is a social welfare scheme which has been benefitting the rural population ever since it was established.
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