A Sharing Session on
Interrogating the Knowledge Dimensions of NREGA and Understanding its Predecessors in Social Security Net
by Ramasubramaniam of Samanvaya
Date: July 1, 2008
NREGA or the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is an example of an Act that has become a policy following pressure from civil society groups, peoples movements in particular. The government today sees this as one of its flagship programmes and it has been adopted with much fanfare and since April 2008 has been extended to all the districts of the country. The scheme has been widely welcomed largely due to a high emphasis on the transparency in its operation, it has gained more media space than any other rural development programme in recent times. While the programmatic aspects of this scheme have been widely discussed, there has not been much discussion on the concept itself. Does it convert all work to wage labour? How has it affected traditional non-farm occupations?
What has been the impact of NREGA on the existing social security nets in traditional communities that have addressed life cycle issues. In many areas these have been studied and documented. However, the NREGA does not seem to build on such knowledge. The rural labour is not necessarily manual labour. While urban labour is divided into knowledge services and manual labour and values have been placed on each of these, this scheme reduced all labour to that of manual labour in rural areas, any availability of knowledge and skill apart from manual labour is not recognized. The role of 'expert' too is defined based on the government departments rather than availability of skills in the village. Has the guarantee of minimum labour and earning even without labour created labour shortage in village based activities such as agriculture? Has NREGA unwittingly made all labour and work uni-directional manual labour oriented rural masses thereby serving as supply to urban contractors?
Ramasubramaniam of Samanvaya (www.samanvaya.net ) explains a study (
'Interrogating the Knowledege Dimensions of NREGA' ) that he proposes to undertake on some of the knowledge foundations of the Act itself. The study would like to explore if traditional models exist that could be strengthened and that could provide insights that can even fundamentally change the nature and scope of such a scheme. The presentation will be followed by discussions, reflections and suggestions from participants on the study including possibilities of collaboration. (This study by Samanvaya has been supported by KICS and CWS.)