09 Oct : The "National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA)" was enacted in September 2005 and brought into force w.e.f 2 February in 200 most backward districts with the objective of providing 100 days of guaranteed unskilled wage employment to each rural household opting for it.
The NREGA marks a paradigm shift and stands out among the plethora of wage employment programmes, as it bestows a legal right and guarantee to the rural population through an Act of Parliament and is not a scheme unlike the other wage employment programmes. The ongoing programmes of Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (SGRY) and National Food for Work Programme (NFFWP) have been subsumed in NREGA. The NREGA would cover all districts of the country within five years. The focus of the Act is on works relating to water conservation, drought proofing (including afforestation/tree plantation), land development, flood control/protection (including drainage in waterlogged areas) and rural connectivity in terms of all-weather roads. Each district has to prepare perspective plan of 5 years with a bottom up approach deriving from the needs of the local community. The said plan should have the approval of especially the derived community and the PRIs. Panchayats have a key role in planning, implementation and monitoring of the Act through preparation of perspective plan, approval of shelf of projects, execution of works at least to the extent of 50 per cent in terms of costs. The Act envisages strict Vigilance and Monitoring. Gram Sabha has the power of social audit. Local Vigilance and Monitoring Committees are to be set up to ensure the quality of works. Provision for due representation in such committees for SC/STs, women has also been made. At least 1/3rd of the beneficiaries are to be women. Key records such as muster rolls, asset registers and employment registers are to be maintained and public access to them ensured. The Act also envisages a grievance redressal mechanism and helpline. A comprehensive MIS has been developed to capture work-wise and household – wise data and track the progress of resources invested.