IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 13th November, 2015
TOPIC: General Studies 2
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
Development processes and the development industry- the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
MGNREGA : Don’t dismantle, Reform
What is the issue –MGNREGA is an Indian labour law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the ‘right to work’. It aims to ensure livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
However since its inception it’s goaded by controversies to the extent that there are rumours about retinkering the act so as to make it more effective transparent and more accountable.
So let’s have a brief look at features of the act
According to the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007–12), the number of Indians living on less than $1 a day, called Below Poverty Line (BPL), was 300 million that barely declined over the last three decades ranging from 1973 to 2004, although their proportion in the total population decreased from 36 per cent (1993–94) to 28 percent (2004–05), and the rural working class dependent on agriculture was unemployed for nearly 3 months per year. The plan targeted poverty through MGNREGA which promised employment as an entitlement.
Financial allocations for the NREGA increased steadily between 2006-2010 when it touched nearly Rs. 40,000 crores. Since then, however, allocation for NREGA has stagnated just below Rs. 40,000 crores. In 2014-15, allocations were cut dramatically to less than Rs. 30,000 crores.
Recently NDA government announced to increase the number of working days from 100 to 150 days in rainfall deficit areas
The Act aims to follow the Directive Principles of State Policy enunciated in Part IV of the Constitution.
The law by providing a ‘right to work’ is consistent with Article 41 that directs the State to secure to all citizens the right to work
In accordance with the Article 21 of the Constitution of India that guarantees the right to life with dignity to every citizen of India, this act imparts dignity to the rural people through an assurance of livelihood security.
The Fundamental Right enshrined in Article 16 of the Constitution of India guarantees equality of opportunity in matters of public employment and prevents the State from discriminating against anyone in matters of employment on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, place of residence or any of them
NREGA also follows Article 46 that requires the State to promote the interests of and work for the economic uplift of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and protect them from discrimination and exploitation.
Article 40 mandates the State to organise village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.[Conferring the primary responsibility of implementation on Gram Panchayats, the Act adheres to this constitutional principle
With the passage of 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India that granted a constitutional status to the Panchayats is further reinforced by the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA that endowed these rural self-government institutions with authority to implement the law.
The assessment of the law is done by various methods like social audit, and mgnrega sameeksha done in collaboration with various IIT,IIM,and UNDP
So lets see few criticisms :
In 2014 a new amendment was proposed to restrict the employment act in only tribal and backward areas and also to change the labour:material ratio from 60:40 to 51:49.
However both proposals came in for sharp criticism. A number of economists with diverse views opposed the idea of restricting or “focussing” implementation in a few districts or blocks
Later it was clarified that there will be no change in the law
Corruption has also been one of the issue
Even though MGNREGA is shrouded with various controversies and complex issues, in recent years, more empirical studies have emerged to provide a solid foundation from which to address a number of questions.
So lets have a look and analyse case by case about the impacts through various experts and scholars
One, how well does the self-targeting mechanism work
The MGNREGA is a self-targeting programme that assumes that only those who can’t find better-paying, less-strenuous work will participate in the hard manual labour offered under the act
A recently published report ,based on the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) of over 28,000 households before and after the implementation of the MGNREGA, shows that the programme is moderately effective in this
Thirty per cent of poor and 21 per cent of non-poor households participate; and 30 per cent of illiterate households versus 13 per cent of households with college graduates participate.
However, it also offers work to a variety of middle-income rural households when there is no work during off seasons
Since programmes solely directed at the poor rarely enjoy wide political support, this broad participation may be one reason for its popularity.
Two, does it really reduce poverty?
The IHDS shows that among the 24.4 per cent of MGNREGA-participating households, the median number of days worked is 40 and the median annual income from the MGNREGA is Rs 4,030, forming about 8.6 per cent of total household income
Even though its small ,But in the absence of NREGA estimates based on a variety of assumptions suggest that the poverty ratio would be at least 25 per cent higher among participants
Three, Does it distort labour markets?
This is the biggest complaint of all. However data show that agricultural labour wages have risen faster than other wages, but it is not clear that this increase can be totally attributed to the MGNREGA
Although 24.4 per cent of IHDS households participate in the MGNREGA, most households have more than one worker, so only 12 per cent of the men and 9 per cent of the women in the IHDS sample participated in the programme, While individuals often worked 30-34 days, at the population level, this comes to less than four days of MGNREGA work per person; about 2.5 per cent of total workdays for men and 5 per cent for women. Thus, the MGNREGA forms a very small part of rural labour.
It is only the Medium to larger farmers who own less than 10 per cent of cultivators — are affected by increases in agricultural wages.
However the recent MGNREGA emphasis towards improving agricultural infrastructure and irrigation should compensate for this hardship.
Four, Why are 70 per cent of the poor not participating in the MGNREGA?
The effect of the programme on poverty reduction has been limited by the fact that only 30 per cent of poor households participate.
In the IHDS sample, more than 60 per cent of interested households complained of not having sufficient work due to poor implementation
This phenomenon, known as work rationing, varies across the country and some of the poorest states, such as Bihar and Odisha, have particularly low participation rates
So better performance in these states will be a tremendous step towards increasing inclusion of the poor
Five, What about cash transfers?
Recently, a lobby for replacing employment guarantee programmes with cash transfers has emerged among economists.
However, welfare versus workfare is an old debate. Developed countries, where incomes are well documented and the poor can be more easily identified, often provide cash incomes to the poor.
Indian experiments with identification of the poor have been dismal failures, leading to enormous errors of inclusion (the non-poor getting benefits) and exclusion (the poor being left out). There is no reason to believe that we can do a better job of targeting subsidies if we eliminate the self-targeting aspect of work requirement
If cash is to be given to all households for 100 days without that barrier, the financial burden would be enormous
Also Cash transfers have other unanticipated impacts, and countries like the US, which have considerable experience with cash benefits, have struggled to incorporate work requirements in cash assistance programmes
So given these considerations, it would not be prudent to let our cynicism about public programmes push us into dismantling the MGNREGA instead of reforming it to ensure better performance
India is a developing country and country has still so many poor people who fail to get 3 square meal a day .Given this situation MGNREGA has been a saviour for poorest of the poor households either to get out of poverty or meet unintended expenses if at all so
So definitely dismantling the law will not serve the purpose as it will create multitudes of other socio-economic problems.
It is a fact that MGNREGA has been success full in reducing distress migration from villages. So its not just given employment in rural areas but also have reduced other urban related problems emerging from migration.
Reforming the act to make it more accountable and transparent through use of ICT is the need of the hour.JAM trinity solution aims to solve one such issue. And periodic assessment of the act is necessary to keep the efficacy of MNGREGA at its best.
Connecting the dots:
Recently there was a proposal to restrict MGREGA to backward areas .however this proposal met with sharp criticism by various circles .In this context analyse the efficacy of MGNREGA so far and justify whether the act is still necessary to uplift poor rural household?
TOPIC: General Studies 2
India and its neighborhood- relations.
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.
Victor’s challenge- Myanmar
November 8 marked a transition in Myanmar politics, as the population of Myanmar inched closer to the polling booths to participate in the election process which was marked by a ‘free and fair’ mandate; with an otherwise wounded opposition watching on.
Unity in Diversity:
Ethnic and religious diversity: It is not an easy task to culturally re-unite groups which stand against each other strongly. With Ma Ba Tha’s anti-Muslim campaigns and the passage of race and religion protection laws, much discrimination stands vocal and thus, has acquired a tendency to be a major roadblock in the peace process.
Representation of ethnic people: Around 38 per cent of Myanmar’s population are ethnic minorities, and displacing the ethnic parties will not bode well for an inclusive political process. NLD has always maintained that democracy is its first priority but a sizeable ethnic representation is essential- to represent the ethnic civilian voice.
Relations with the military: Myanmar has mainland Southeast Asia’s largest standing army with the Constitution guaranteeing the military’s place in the Parliament and its control over key ministries, thereby keeping them as a significant stakeholder in the political system. This might lead to a major dissent and a divided Parliament can make the peace process difficult to materialize.
Myanmar’s Post-Independence Period:
The U Nu era (1948–62): Strongly Democratic
The Ne Win era (1962–88): Autarchic policies; Witnessed a tilt towards an intolerant and authoritarian dictatorship with Myanmar slipping into isolationism, where China was perhaps the only support
Gradual opening of doors towards democracy and welcomed back friends and investment
Constricted by the Constitutional imperatives of a 25 per cent representation of the military through the electoral process in Parliament
Swarna Bhumi– Bharat Bhumi
Civilizational imprint and religious legacy: Of India on Myanmar as Buddhism travelled from India and Sri Lanka to Myanmar
Victims of colonial yoke: India has remained strongly democratic but Myanmar after a few years of democratic existence, fell victim to military dictatorship.
Rohingya Refugee Migration: India had to take a tough stance to deny safe haven for fissiparous elements or potential insurgents who might have destabilised the Indian areas.
China strong traditional ties with Myanmar: Myanmar shares long borders with China and has long historical association-
Chinese exploitation of country natural resources
Usage of Myanmar’s territory for a gas and oil pipeline and hydroelectricity projects
Border shared between India and Myanmar encompasses the socio-cultural landscape of the borderland, dividing tribes (Singphos, Nagas, Kukis, Mizos) who continue to maintain strong linkages, leading to a number of insurgencies that have hampered the nation building process in this part of India
Free Movement Regime (FMR):
Permits the tribes residing along the border to travel 16-km across the boundary without visa restrictions causing concern for the security establishment
Facilitation of smuggling of Arms + Narcotics+ Ephedrine and Pseudo-ephedrine + Trafficking of women and children
Policy of Constructive Engagement: Led to a better balance in bilateral relations offering considerable scope for greater interaction in the political, economic and security spheres
Security related interaction:
The reaction of Myanmar to action of Indian security forces against insurgent groups was to note “coordination and cooperation” between the armed forces.
Indian National Security Adviser was invited to the signing ceremony of a ceasefire between the Myanmar Government and the armed ethnic groups
Bilateral Economic Cooperation:
Need to push up commercial interaction,
Economic cooperation through projects
Capacity building- Infrastructure and connectivity
Clearance of the financial outlay for the Kaladan Multi-Modal transport project connecting Kolkata with Sittwe port and onwards to Mizoram
The India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway (ongoing)
Strengthen the security of the border by giving the Assam Rifles the single mandate of guarding the border or deploying another border-guarding force such as the Border Security Force (BSF)
Initiate a revision of the FMR and reduce the permitted distance of unrestricted travel
Construction of the ICP along with other infrastructure should be expedited
Need to upgrade the land customs station into an integrated check post (ICP) housing all regulatory and security agencies within a single complex with all modern amenities to boost trade and curb smuggling (screening and detection machines, communication devices, banking facilities, warehouses, parking and quarantine facilities)
India, instead of trying to replace or compete with Chinese influence over this region, should direct its energy towards exploiting those areas where it enjoys a distinct edge
There is a need for greater government-to-government, business-to-business, and people-to-people interaction for further development and consolidation of bilateral relations.
Lack of conceptualization:
Has been a serious deficit in its policy thinking and therefore, India should work on strategic convergences and shared concerns of dealing with insurgency along border areas or exhibiting to the world together- the Buddhist tourist mines
Monks can play a better ambassador’s role and should thus, be covered under a visa-free scheme upon their visit to India.
Indian Trade and Cultural Centres (TCCs) across Myanmar:
Could play a useful role once the highway project linking India-Myanmar-Thailand-Vietnam are completed
Promotion of a brand of sustainable cultural tourism with a series of pilgrimage corridors from China across Myanmar (engines of economic growth)
Connecting the Dots:
Comment on the significance of Connectivity in India-Myanmar Relations
Discuss the need to move away from a Weapons & Equipment Supply-Based Relationship shared between Indian and Myanmar Armed Forces
Woman power can script India story- Study says an additional 68 million women could potentially enter the labour force over coming decade which if channelled properly could help India build competitive advantage