Thiruvananthapuram: An expert committee set up by the State Planning Board has found that the Mahatma Gandhi Natonal Rural Employment Guarantee Act perpetuates unskilled labour and, therefore, was inadequate to pull beneficiaries out of poverty. As an antidote, the EC recommends that skills acquisition and upgradation should be made part of the project. “The Scheme focuses only on the creation of physical assets and altogether ignores the acquisition of skills,” the Expert Committee on Employment and Skills Development says. Acquisition of skills is presently not considered a ‘durable tangible asset’ like roads or bridges under the scheme.
The creation of ‘durable tangible asset’ is the major objective of MGNREGA. The EC report wants acquisition of skills to be considered as a ‘durable tangible asset’. The report also wants service sector jobs, too, to be brought under the scheme. Service sector jobs such as cleaning in hospitals are excluded from the definition of unskilled manual jobs under the Scheme. There is no scope within the MGNREGS for beneficiaries with skills that cannot be marketed in the modern context (for instance, women employed in the declining industries or occupations of cashew, coir and handloom) to acquire more relevant and marketable skills.
The Scheme does not permit the use of even simple mechanical equipment or devices, the report says. “In the context of Kerala, it is no longer possible to get men and women to do manual labour without the use of basic mechanical devices. The restriction on the use of even simple mechanical equipment and devices discourages genuine and deserving persons from joining the Scheme,” the report says. Further, the report states that the list of areas of work included under “Guidelines for new additional works permitted under MGNREGA” does not include many areas of work that are relevant to the state such as land development, sapling planting in Mangroves (back waters), coconut climbing and the like.