Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh on Thursday said the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is only a transitional arrangement for about 20 years and that too, for catering to the need of distress employment.
Ramesh who released a rural development report prepared by the IDFC foundation said that the three principal objectives of the scheme which were to provide assets, create durable community assets and empower gram panchayats, have not shown similar levels of results. “Under the MGNREGS, one in four rural households have got employment and against the objective of 100 days of employment a year, we have been able to ensure an average of 45-50 days of employment,” he said.
The scheme has, however, helped reduce substantially distress migration – both the inter state migration such as from Bihar and Odisha to Punjab and Haryana and intra state – migration such as in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka of laborers, he pointed out. Notwithstanding the mammoth annual expenditure of over Rs 1000 crore for rural development in India, second only to defence expenditure, social infrastructure remains at a distressing level.
According to the report, two-thirds of the rural population in the country still defecates in the open. Ramesh called the state of sanitation in rural India “the greatest failure not of the Indian state but the society too.” “India is undergoing urbanisation. But to make this change transformational, conventional approaches will not be enough,” he said while announcing the setting up of a new government aided foundation which will work on rural livelihood.
The IDFC report highlights that 50 percent of the rural employment in India is now non-farm based employment. However, the delivery of public services still remains a challenge with 20 per cent of rural India still living without electricity, drinking water and latrines whereas only 18 percent of rural households have access to all the three basic services – drinking water within premises, sanitation and electricity.