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NREGA has been a success and has provided protection from starvation to vulnerable sections of the population, said Usha Mishra Hayes (Mint )
NREGA has been a success and has provided protection from starvation to vulnerable sections of the population, said Usha Mishra Hayes (Mint )

NREGA big success story of recent times in India: UN official

  • Usha Mishra Hayes' book takes note of the experiences and reforms within the two largest social protection schemes in India - NREGA and ICDS
  • Many countries like India and the UK have enacted legislations to address the basic needs like health, education, income and food, she says

NREGA is a big success story of recent times in India, providing protection from starvation to vulnerable sections of the population, says senior UN advisor Usha Mishra Hayes in her book which is about the ever-shifting world of policy which influences the social protection systems in Asian and African countries.

In "Social Protection: Lands of Blossoming Hope", development expert Hayes uses an insider's knowledge to examine and dissect the level of interest and also assess the drivers and influencers, namely those who occupy key positions overseeing the processing and promotion of social schemes, and identifying obstacles.

She says her book "recounts our triumphs and follies - it's about those of us, the indefatigable UN staffers, who have been driven by the zeal of 'making a difference'. It is about our naivety, our errors as well as our drive, passion, perseverance and commitment".

According to UNICEF, social protection is key to inclusive growth and development, and is defined broadly as a "set of public and private policies and programmes aimed at preventing, reducing and eliminating economic and social vulnerabilities to poverty and deprivation".

The book takes note of the experiences and reforms within the two largest social protection schemes in India - the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) - and calls them major poverty targeting programmes.

NREGA, it says, is the "big success story of recent times" in India.

"This is a fully home-grown model, built on the back of decades-long efforts towards home-based relief and poverty reduction programmes. NREGA has been a success and has provided protection from starvation to vulnerable sections of the population," the book, brought out by Palimpsest Publishing House, says.

Hayes argues that while its contribution to food security and other development outcomes has been well-established, the project often has created socially and economically useful infrastructure for the community and contributed to its overall development.

She also says that it will be pertinent here to take a "look at India's urban poverty since there has been a strong trend among the rural poor to migrate to the cities looking for livelihood".

"In response to this emerging situation, there is a determined move to replace the take-home ration scheme with cash transfers. The government is working with the UNICEF and the WB in order to achieve this," Hayes writes.

She says having subscribed to a global agenda, countries are embarking on expansion, consolidation and reform of existing social protection measures.  

She is of the view that the road to setting up a national social protection system is never an easy one, especially in a country like India that has established large-scale social safety nets and social protection programmes.

Many countries like India and the UK have enacted legislations to address the basic needs like health, education, income and food, she says.

On Afghanistan, Hayes writes that the first thing that struck her there was how a well-designed UNICEF programme could still work effectively and yield results in a war-ravaged, extremely fragile social environment.

Afghanistan provides a powerful and inspiring example of setting up of a social protection system in a fragile environment, she says.

"Starting with a modest beginning by the UNICEF and the World Bank, the country has by now been able to set up a regular, predictable, cash-based social protection programme in 100 districts (one-fifth of the total districts in the country," the book says.

"Many positive government policies and practices do not originate in a country's strategic development planning process. They begin as pilots, as an experiment to test their relevance and effectiveness, and are then gradually given the appropriate policy space," it says.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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