Employment guarantee scheme not in sync with Mastapur's needs
Hope floated in drought-hit Mastapur village when people heard of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (nrega) in 2006. Residents of this village in Madhya Pradesh's Tikamgarh district thought of the scheme as the perfect opportunity to renovate their local tank to tide over a four-year long drought. For, under nrega, water conservation gets top priority and the village panchayat has the power to decide for it. But hopes disappeared soon instead, the village got a kachcha road (mud track), which is hardly commutable.
For Janaki Devi, a Mastapur resident who trudges 2 km everyday for a pot of water, it's bad news. She says, "No one wants to marry their daughters in a village where one has to walk barefoot long distances to fetch water." In her village women are not allowed to wear shoes while venturing out.
Prakash Pal, a resident of Shahpura village, asks, "What will we do with a road? Road is for the officials who drive in here once a year. We need water." His anger is valid. In 2006, Tikamgarh received just 380 mm or 37 per cent of the average rainfall. This is the fourth year, the district has got less than 60 per cent of the average rainfall. Records of Madhya Pradesh's agriculture department shows that drought has affected about 42.06 per cent of the cropped area and 37.16 per cent of the farm families. Farmers have shifted from wheat, barley and soybean to less water-intensive til, groundnut, jowar and mustard.
Juxtapose this with nrega's implementation statistics only 3.64 per cent of total works under the scheme have been on water conservation. Worse still, drought-proofing works under the scheme have got the least priority. However, more money has been spent on water conservation despite less number of works. The district has spent around Rs 27 crore or 36 per cent of its total available funds on water conservation. One of the lowest expenditure was on drought proofing, just Rs 12.48 lakh.
This contention notwithstanding, to answer the union government, the district authorities pushed panchayat s to take up large-scale concrete road construction. Concrete roads require less labour and can be made during rains. The panchayat bodies, also in hurry to spend the funds, encouraged roadside plantation and jatropha plantation.
At least 50 per cent of the works under nrega have to be undertaken by panchayats. But, says a senior district official, "five per cent of nrega funds have been given to the panchayats. They are too small to carry out such works".A worker of the local ngo, Srijan, adds "Most nrega works are approved by the government. Panchayats only implement." The ngo has been campaigning for more watershed works in nrega.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.