The importance of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) has increased in the wake of the global economic slowdown, the Editor-in-chief of The Hindu, N. Ram, said on Saturday.
The slowdown, he said, would put a squeeze on rural livelihoods and incomes. “Unless there is massive injection of demand into the economy that puts purchasing power into the hands of the rural masses, especially the poor, who have to go out and work to support their families, the economy will take a long time coming out of its difficulties.”
Mr. Ram was addressing a session on “National Perspectives on NREGS: Issues and challenges” held as part of a regional conference of southern States on “Initiatives on supporting the NREGS through State Legal Service Authorities” organised jointly by the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority, the Karnataka High Court Legal Services Committee and the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms here.
Tracing the implementation of the NREGS, he said its potential was weakened from the start as the programme was taken up in phases though the Common Minimum Programme had committed itself to its full implementation. The scheme thus proceeded very slowly — covering 200 districts in the first phase and 330 districts later. However, the many problems that confronted the scheme — irregularities in compiling muster rolls, corruption and siphoning off of funds and middlemen pocketing money — should not become reasons to bring it down. Rather, practical solutions could be found for these problems.
be found for these problems. Mr. Ram stressed the need for increasing the minimum wages under the NREGS to Rs. 100 or more. Congratulating the higher judiciary on supporting this scheme through such a conference, he said this would send out a moral signal to society of the vital importance of this issue before the people. The media too should play a greater role in creating awareness of the NREGS.
Poor funds utilisation
Mr. Ram referred to Karnataka’s poor funds utilisation under the NREGS compared to the other three southern States, and wanted the State government to ponder this issue, especially when the State is a leader in the new economy