MNREGA and MPLADS/MLA LADS deserve a dispassionate and deep evaluation by high grade economists, social and constitutional experts. It pains to see the beneficiaries using their heads for carrying soil in this 21st Century, in particular women. Can they be expected to sanitize their hands every time they touch anything? What about Cleanliness programme (Swachhta Abhiyan)? Is two India going to be a reality for another century: one belonging to the 5 trillion economy and the other to MNREGA? Does it remind of the manual scavenging? Do the politicians taking pride in starting the scheme realize how demeaning it is? Besides, even such degrading employment comes for about 100 days in a year (365 days!) for some only. The way the scheme has so far been implemented has only spread the virus of corruption at the community level. The poor, who did not know what “corruption” was, saw it being practiced in the villages by petty politicians. The result: Loss of power and decline from approximate 444 to just 44. Added to it was the MPLAD Scheme which gave funds for development but ended up building pucca boundary walls at the farms of politicians. The scheme was born when Harshad Mehta displayed on TV a suitcase filled with 1 Crore rupees which he had paid to XYZ as bribe. The noise created by such a scandal was silenced by launching the MPLAD Scheme and each Hon’ble MP was given 2 Crores to be spent under the scheme for local area development. May be, many new bridges/roads have been built with these funds!
Mahatma Gandhi did not visualize rural employment as the scheme does, but gave a solid workable perpetual skill based and market led scheme of Khadi and Village Industries. Nobody has explored the huge scope for high skill development, induction of modern technology at village industry level, immense gainful employment opportunities in the area of khadi as well as village industry. As an illustration the shoe/chappal/juti industry can be taken. The freedom leaders wore chappals made locally. We all know Kohlapuri chappals. What technological improvement we have introduced in making these daily use mass consumption goods? They are as rough as 73 years ago! Does technology stop using the same raw material for these chappals which is used for sports shoes, snow shoes or desert shoes? Developed countries take pride in handmade shoes/handbags, but we promote machine made goods! An assured market of 130 Crore consumers is great economic opportunity. The 6 feet plus body weighing between 75 to 125 kg has strong feet that require chappals made so well as to provide comfort to the user and serve long (like international brands Puma/Adidas etc.) Who discourages growth? The same lobbies that make windfall profits by discouraging use of cotton clothes in the tropical climate of India. The entire village industry sector and small scale industry sector is the “core” consumer products sector with turnover in trillions. Unfortunately, this sector has been denied technological improvement/ modernization opportunities. Unfortunately, the welfarist mindsets ruling the country discourage self-reliance. But employment is every Indian’s birth right. Those who thrive on borrowed ideas alone may laugh at innovative ideas but can’t fault the potential for economic growth germane to the typically Indian ethos, environment and wholesome development. What does a big industry give? It is germane to large industry to create pollution, garbage and effluents without proper disposal. Large industry need not replace village industry but must only supplement and complement the economic needs of the nation.
Populism is one thing and nation building another. MNREGA & MPLADS serve the political purpose of publicity for votes.