TODAY -

Just a road show ?
- The Sangai Express Editorial :: 09th July, 2008 -

Manipur was fortunate in the sense that Tamenglong was among the districts that was chosen for the first phase of the National Rural Employment Generation Scheme, which is touted as the flag ship of the UPA Government (Championed by no none lesser than Rahul Gandhi).

Under this scheme, the Government envisages to provide employment to chosen job card holders for 100 days a year and pay them at the rate fixed by the Centre, which is about Rs 82 per day.

This is fine for providing meaningful and productive employment to the rural poor, especially the hill people is not something easy and if implemented properly this scheme can go a long way in meeting the financial needs of the rural poor.

While we have heard success stories of the scheme in some districts, particularly in Tamenglong and Churachandpur, the script may appear different in other districts, especially in the valley districts of Imphal East, West, Thoubal and Bishnupur.

Apart from engaging the rural poor in some productive works, what should not be forgotten is the point that whatever work is executed under the NREGS should serve a meaningful purpose for the people.

It will defeat the very purpose of the scheme if the work executed by the villagers do not serve any positive purpose in the future.

In other words, if the villagers are to clear a road or widen a trek that connects villages then the work should be executed in such a way that it improves communication and inter-village connectivity. Likewise if a canal is to be cleaned, then it should be done so with the sole objective of making the canal serve its purpose more meaningfully.

So far the focus of the Government appears to be about engaging the villagers and providing job cards. No doubt this is an important aspect of the scheme but this is not the be all and end all of the scheme. Unfortunately this important point seems to have clouded over minds of the administration in the valley districts.

From whatever we have observed and seen in the recent past, it has become more and more clear, that the NREGS works taken up in the valley districts resemble more of a social service rendered by people of a certain locality, such as clearing and cleaning the drains and roads.

This by itself is not that bad an idea at all for in the days gone by, the valley area had the culture of its people coming together to take up social works and this was best exemplified by the numerous social works that we witnessed on Gandhi Jayanti. Now of course such activities have changed date to the birth date of Jananeta Hijam Irabot.

However this is besides the point for there should be a difference between what is purely voluntary work based on community participation, as exemplified by the social service witnessed earlier, and works taken up under a Government project.

The money that is invested in the NREGS should be such that there is a return from the investment. NREGS should not be seen as only providing employment, but should also be understood in the context of the Government investing money which should have some returns in the long run.

Sadly this aspect seems to be missing in the valley districts, for what we have seen so far has not been much more than a road side show !





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