MGNREGS Convergence Programme
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), notified on September 7, 2005, marked a paradigm shift from the previous wage employment programs with its rights-based approach that makes the Government legally accountable for providing employment to those who demand it. The Act aims at enhancing livelihood security of households in rural areas of the country by providing at least one hundred days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
The primary objective of the Act is to augment wage employment. Its auxiliary objective is strengthening natural resource management through works that address causes of chronic poverty like drought and thus encourage sustainable development. MGNREGA, through its focus on works in the categories of water harvesting, soil conservation, irrigation, flood protection, afforestation and plantation, helps to insulate local community from adverse effects of climate change. The process outcomes include strengthening grass root processes of democracy and infusing transparency and accountability in governance.
Under MGNREGA large sums of public money are invested. Leveraging these investments towards sustainable livelihood requires inter-sectoral convergence. Since planning for MGNREGA is decentralized and there is a certain degree of flexibility with funds, works can be planned / structured and executed as per local requirements. MGNREGA thus becomes a significant entry point for convergence with other development programs.
Convergence is an evolving process and while broad principles can be laid out at the Centre, the actual contours of convergence will be determined by the resources at the Central, State, District and the project level. Also, to fully identify the areas for convergence, it may be necessary to make a beginning with select programs, so that the experience of implementation may further inform and refine strategies for convergence.
One of the significant programs for convergence is the Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) latter on PMKSY Programme of the Dept of Land Resources (DoLR) in the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD).
IWMP which is being implemented as per the Common Guidelines for Watershed Development Projects, 2008 (revised in 2011). The main aims of the IWMP are to restore the ecological balance by harnessing, conserving and developing degraded natural resources such as soil, vegetative cover and water. The expected outcomes are increase in availability of surface water and ground water, conversion of wastelands into productive lands, increase in cropping intensity and agriculture productivity, generation of livelihoods for asset-less people and small & marginal farmers.
Convergence between MGNREGA and IWMP latter on PMKSY:
Convergence between MGNREGA and IWMP later on PMKSY is crucial and also mutually beneficial because 70% of works taken up in MGNREGA relate to soil and water conservation. The focus of IWMP is on improving soil and water conservation in the area with the poorest soil and water regimes. It is primarily inhabitants in these areas that require support for securing additional employment as the agricultural operations are not adequate to meet the livelihood needs. It is precisely here that MGNREGA can provide the required support. Moreover, under MGNREGA almost all assets necessary for watershed development are permitted. IWMP also has a livelihood component. Thus, while funds for creation of durable and sustainable assets can come from both the programs, the cost for training for livelihood can be undertaken from IWMP fund.