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National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS)

 
  NREGS provides guaranteed wage employment and a good opportunity to build long-term assets

NREGS is the largest source of development funds for backward regions. As a 'demand-driven' scheme, NREGS theoretically has no funding limit. While activities to be primarily undertaken under the scheme, like soil and water conservation and tree plantation, are priority needs in rainfed and backward areas, there is also good scope for 'convergence' with related central government schemes like watershed programmes, and state government schemes.

Convergence is possible at several levels: from the planning and budgetting stage, till the NREGS worksite level. Convergence can increase the benefit of works and assets generated through NREGS and provide opportunities even for unrelated programmes: a pond created under the scheme can be tied to a fisheries development programme; NREGS worksites can be used for providing basic HIV/AIDs education.

At a basic level, convergence with other schemes that provide wage employment can ensure a fair amount of income and employment opportunities in a village, and prevent distress migration. In a village with up to 75-100 households dependant on wage labour outside the village, NREGS and other wage employment schemes can completely stop migration.

This is what happened in Kanhai, a village with a population of around 1000, in Naraini block of Banda district, in 2006-2008. In this period, the village's highly active and public-spirited pradhan, Amod Rawat, working under the guidance of Vidhyadham Samiti, an NGO partner of ABSSS, ensured that NREGS works with wage component aggregating to around Rs 10.5 lakhs were done in the village. Additionally, works worth around Rs 14 lakhs were brought under the UP government's Ambedkar village scheme. Around 250 persons who used to migrate regularly stayed back in the village.

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