MGNREGA

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The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) promises the largest ever employment programme in human history. Entitlements under MGNREGA are demand-driven and constitutionally protected. Even so there is a real danger that lack of awareness among intended beneficiaries and absence of implementation capability among Gram Panchayats (GPs, the chief implementing agency), will mean that the full potential of MGNREGA is not realised. To meet this challenge, SPS set up the National Consortium of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) for NREGA in 2007. The Consortium includes 72 CSO partners in 85 blocks of 58 most backward districts across 11 states of India, working with about 125,000 families to make MGNREGA a success.

The Consortium seeks to move beyond the more traditional civil society watchdog role to improving NREGA implementation in all its various dimensions by an integrated approach to planning, implementation and social audit of NREGA works. Consortium partners have helped GPs develop action plans worth Rs.1.25 billion. The Annual Reports of the Consortium helped shape several initiatives in the policy space for NREGA reform. The recommendations of the Consortium focused on addressing the lack of human resources among GPs in implementing NREGA works. In 2013, the central government passed the NREGA 2.0 incorporating the recommendations of the Consortium.

A part of the National Rural Livelihood Mission of 2011, SPS has been involved with the National Skills Development Council in linking the standardization of occupational requirements to the MGNERGA program. SPS has been involved in defining the trainings and syllabi for National Occupational Standards and Quality Pacts, which provides certification for workers with technical skills. Linking these workers, such as barefoot engineers, to the GPs through NREGA addresses the need for human resources within the local government sector–a major hurdle in implementing NREGA works. SPS is also partnering with the Ministry of Rural Development, Govt. of India, in the Cluster Facilitation Team programme in the Melghat region of Maharashtra, for better implementation of MGNREGA at the grass-roots. These initiatives and field-based lessons coupled with SPS films, “The Road Back Home,” and reports “Two Years of MGNERGA and the Road Ahead,” demonstrate the potential of MGNREGA.