Rural job scheme causing farm labour shortage: Study

February 12th, 2012 - 10:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Feb 12 (IANS) India’s flagship rural job scheme is causing a labour shortage, besides increasing farm production costs by about 20 percent, a study by a city-based research institute said Sunday.

The study by Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) said that the national rural employment guarantee scheme launched in 2006 “has weaned away agriculture labour during the kharif sowing season that lasts from July to August during the southwest monsoon period”.

ISEC professor Pramod Kumar said, in a statement here citing the study report titled ‘Impact of NREGA on wage rate, food security and rural-urban migration in Karnataka’, that farm labour shortage had led to higher costs of production.

He said that farm labour should be employed under the scheme only after the end of the sowing and harvesting seasons of rabi and kharif to mitigate the crisis on the farm front.

On the positive side, the study found that the scheme empowered women and saved the rural people from extreme poverty while helping in reducing distress migration to urban areas.

“Ever since the scheme came into being, daily wages in the farm sector have shot up by a whopping 50 percent. Though the stipulated minimum wage for unskilled labour is fixed at Rs.119 per day, the average wage paid is recorded as Rs.86, which is Rs.33 less,” said Pramod Kumar, who heads the agriculture development and rural transformation centre at the institute.

For the study, he conducted field survey along with his associate I. Maruthi in the villages of Bidar, Bellary, Chamarajanagar, Chikmagalur and Dharwad districts.

“A majority of households indicated that the scheme has not been successful in raising their living standards or their consumption levels as the number of days of work were not enough to make a difference on the poverty level,” he said.

According to the data collected by the researchers, against 100 days of guaranteed employment, the state provided work for 35 days in fiscal 2008-09, 57 days in 2009-10 and 32 days in 2010-11 (up to November).

For effective implementation of the scheme, the study suggested increase in work days and wage rate, providing food within the programme and information on various aspects of the scheme.

Social audit was not done in 10 districts across the state, he said.

“There should also be a mechanism to punish officials found guilty of indulging in corruption and other untoward activities,” he said.

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