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Sep 26, 2013 at 10:29pm IST

MNREGS not a permanent employment generating programme: Jairam Ramesh

New Delhi: Asserting that the MNREGS is not a permanent employment generating programme, senior Congress leader and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said it is a transition programme for 20-25 years period in areas, in pockets, where there is still demand for distress employment.

Ramesh while releasing the India Rural Development Report, prepared by the IDFC Rural development Network, said that MNREGS had contributed to an increase in rural wages, which has in turn contributed to decline in rural poverty levels.

The Union Minister, however, argued that 'MNREGS needed greater flexibility in the 60:40 ratio between wage and material.'

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But there is more than MNREGS in the India Rural Development Report. The report documents a significant rise in rural non-farm employment.

The report has one chapter devoted to UPA's flagship programme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme which details the decline in the number of work days, participation of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and expenditure as percentage of GDP over the last three years.

Ramesh said "at a macro level one could say that almost 50 per cent of employment in rural India is non-farm employment." The traditional notion that we have a static employment structure as far as rural India is concerned is not borne out by facts, Ramesh added.

"The conventional wisdom that while the share of agriculture in GDP has fallen steeply while the share of agriculture in employment has remained virtually stagnant has been debunked," the Union Minister said. The 2011 census revealed that census towns that were rural in terms of governance but met the criteria for being defined as 'urban' had increased from 1362 in 2001 to 3894 in 2011.

A population of more than 5000, population density of more than 400 per square kilometer and 75 per cent of male employment outside agriculture are the characteristics of urbanisation. Ramesh also questioned the familiar rural-urban dichotomy arguing that there exists a rural-urban continuum instead, "I think what India is undergoing is not urbanization, but a process of rurbanisation- rural areas are becoming urban...they retain rural characteristics in terms of governance but they meet all urban characteristics. We have no intervention to deal with rurbanisation".

Highlights of the India Rural Development Report:

- Growth rate of rural population has declined substantially to just 1.2 per cent during 2001-11 from 1.7 per cent per year during 1991-2001.

- Urban population growth rate was 2.8 per cent per year during both periods.

- At the same time, the proportion of rural population under the age of 14 is declining. That of working age, ageing population is growing.

- 2,20,000 villages have people fewer than 500.

- In 1970-71, 51 per cent of landholdings were marginal ie less than 1 hectare or 2.5 acres. By 2010-11, it had increased to 67 per cent .

- A staggering 85 per cent of all landholdings are held by small and marginal farmers.

- In 1970-71 big landowners controlled 31 per cent of total cultivable area which declined to 11 per cent by 2010-11.

- Rural nonfarm employment rose to over 42 per cent in 2009-10 from 32 per cent in 1993-94

- Census 2011 reports fewer cultivators than a decade ago in almost all states with the exceptions of Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, and some North Eastern states.

- There are more women in agriculture, 'Feminisation of agriculture'- 79 per cent of the female work forces were occupied in agriculture in 2009-10 compared to 63 per cent of male workforce in 2011

- Ground water has replaced surface water as the major source of irrigation, now accounting for 60 per cent of gross irrigated area.

- In 1960, there were 200000 pumpsets which rose to over 20,000000 in 2009.

- There is a significant decline in poverty levels from 42 per cent in 2004-5 to 26 and in 2011-12 due to agricultural productivity and growth in mid 2000.

- However, while in 1993-94, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh accounted for 50 per cent of rural poor, by 2011-12, this share increased to 65 per cent.

- Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh along with Rajasthan also have the worst social indicators and the poorest penetration of basic infrastructure such as drinking water, sanitation and electricity.

- Of all social groups, Scheduled Tribes have the highest levels of poverty at 50 per cent, followed by Scheduled Castes at 42 per cent.

- More than half the children in standard 5 could not read a text prescribed for standard 2 and three quarters could not do a simple division in 2012. Worse, learning levels seem to have worsened since 2010 when the right to education became effective.

- 48 per cent children under the age of five are stunted, half are malnourished. At 87 per cent India has the highest percentage of anaemic pregnant women in the world.

- In 1993, 3 per cent of rural primary school children attended private school, today it has shot up to 28 per cent.

- MNREGS has provided an average of 40 to 50 days employment per year to 25 per cent of rural households against a promised 100 days of work.

- In poorer states like Bihar, MNREGS seems to have plateaued and even shows signs of deceleration.

- No disciplinary action even in the few instances where social audits have been conducted.

- In terms of households getting employment, number of person days created, participation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, participation of women, expenditure as percentage of GDP - MNREGS has shown a decline.

- In 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12, 5.3 crore, 5.5 crore and 5 crore households found employment respectively.

- In 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12, total person days created were 5.3 crore, 5.5 crore and 5 crore respectively.

- In 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 the percentage of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes of the total person days were 51 per cent, 51 per cent and 40 per cent respectively.

- And expenditure as percentage of GDP was 0.6 per cent in 2009-10, 0.5 in 2010-11, 0.4 in 2011-12.

- Paradoxically, high poverty states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand and Odisha had low participation rates. And every third registered household which sought work in Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha did not get work.