Ranchi: Prem Dayamani, a villager living 30 km from Ranchi, had an average income of Rs 27 a day last year. That’s Rs 5 less than the minimum cost of living in rural areas, which, the Planning Commission said in 2014, was Rs 32 a day.
Even so, part of the payment was only on paper. Last year, she got nothing. “I got last year’s money this year. Had I received it last year, it would have been of some use,” said Dayamani, whose husband is paralysed and a son works as a construction worker in a family of five.
Dayamani works under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme – the wages being Rs 162 a day for Jharkhand. But instead of the 100 days the scheme guarantees per year, she worked for only 60 days last year making an average income Rs 27 a day.
Jharkhand’s BJP government says the way the NREGA is being run, leaves much to be desired.
Last year, the Centre provided it only half the allocated Rs 1,900 crore, which, the state says, made it impossible to give 100 days of work to people. It had not been possible to pay them even for all the days they worked. The total outstanding compensation is over Rs 500 crore.
But figures from the Rural Development Ministry say the performance of the MNREGA has improved in 2015, under the Narendra Modi government. The average 47.8 days’ work that each household got last year is the highest in the six years. In 2014, the scheme generated just 34 days of work per household.
The turnaround came months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticised the scheme in Parliament. “My political understanding says never shut MNREGA. I can never make the mistake because MNREGA is a living example of your failures,” Mr Modi had said in February last year.
But Jean Dreze, economist and one of the architects of NREGA under the UPA government, says the main thing required is to “observe the law in totality” be it in providing adequate funds or compensation.
“In many ways, the government needs to ensure that the law is working,” he said.