New Delhi: Less than 9% of households in the 60 districts most affected by Maoist militancy found the required 100 days of employment under the country’s rural jobs programme in the year ended 31 March.
The national average of households that have completed 100 days under the job guarantee plan last fiscal was also poor at 10.1% compared with 8.8% in the districts hit by Maoist insurgency.
The poor performance of the scheme in these areas has prompted the rural development ministry to boost implementation of social and economic development programmes in the 60 Integrated Action Plan (IAP) districts in nine states, including Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and West Bengal.
The average number of days of employment per household provided under the government’s flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in these districts fell to 47 days last year compared with 48 days in the previous two years, according to the ministry.
The government is aiming to wean away youth in the militancy-affected districts by providing them jobs and eliminate the alienation of people of these areas because of lack of development.
The job programme guarantees 100 days of work every year to each rural household. The programme has provided employment to 21.6 million households so far this year and has a budget allocation of Rs 40,000 crore in the year to 31 March.
The figures in violence-affected areas areas are particularly low because of concerns over security, ministry officials said.
“The performance of our schemes in these areas has been dismal because there are several hurdles to executing them there, especially relating to security concerns. The success of (MG)NREGA also depends on planning at the local level which is also lacking in most of these districts,” said a ministry official, who declined to be identified.
The percentage of women employed under the programme in the insurgency hit districts in the same period was 44% compared with the national average of 48%. The law stipulates that at least a third of the workers under the job programme should be women. The funds available to the 60 districts in 2010-11 was Rs 6,170 crore, of which Rs 4,669 crore was utilized.
“The number of households who complete 100 days under MGNREGA in a year is low even nationally but is lower in the Naxal-affected regions because of certain sociopolitical factors,” said Vinoj Abraham, who teaches at Thiruvananthapuram-based Centre for Development Studies. “Most workers under the scheme in other states are women, but because of security concerns in these regions, it might not be possible for women to go out and work.”
A feudal agricultural set-up, corruption and a reluctance to be seen as pro-establishment by working in a government programme also contribute to the poor functioning, Abraham said.
The ministry, meanwhile, has been focusing on devising new strategies to better implement its schemes in the violence-affected districts as a way of enhancing social and economic development there.
Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has emphasized on ensuring that rural development programmes are implemented according to the specific requirements of these regions.
“Our schemes should not be straitjacketed, there should be flexibility to suit Naxal-affected districts,” Ramesh said in July. “These areas require to be treated differently and these 60 districts will now definitely be the focus of the ministry.”
The ministry has identified infrastructure and governance deficit as the two main hurdles to the implementation of programmes in these areas and is hoping to address these issues in a more structured manner now.
To further this, the ministry organized a day-long workshop with district collectors of the 60 IAP districts earlier this month. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, home minister P. Chidambaram, Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia and some other cabinet ministers spoke at the workshop.