Tuesday, July 7, 2009

DBDS #016 THE TIME IS RIGHT!

MUMBAI, JULY 7, 2009
Savio Silveira


Our focus all through June was definitely on the NREGS. The month began with a meeting at Chhota Udepur, Gujarat, to chart a definite course of action for the next three years on how to ensure the proper implementation of the NREGS in the villages we are working in. And the month closed with a staff training workshop, again at Chhota Udepur, which aimed at understanding a little more clearly the ground reality vis-à-vis the complex dynamics involved in actualizing this scheme. The days in between were spent in enabling each centre to get its act together and to actually step into the arena. And yes, the month also threw up a few quick successes, especially at Kapadvanj, where we had some of our village communities acquiring their Job Cards, applying for work and even getting down to work in two villages.

Against this backdrop, the budget presented by the Finance Minister in Parliament yesterday is heartening. He reiterated the Government’s commitment to the NREGS, announced an allocation of 39,100 crores of rupees for this programme, and even declared—although a little ambiguously—that the minimum wage under this scheme would be Rs. 100 per day. Rural India definitely has a reason to cheer!

But all this good news does not imply that we can now let down our hair. If anything, it is a call to further pull up our socks. We know just too well, that at the end of the day, it’s not about plans and schemes and budgetary pronouncements—it’s all about the delivery system. To ensure that the people can access the NREGS, that the crores of rupees pledged actually translate into employment and wages for the rural populace, that productive assets get created in the villages—that’s where we enter the fray.

In more than one way the NREGS has got the economics right. The challenge now is to get the praxis right too.

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