National Rural Works Guarantee Act 2005 (NREGA)
NREGA is designed as a safety net to reduce migration by rural poor households in the lean period through at least 100 days of guaranteed unskilled manual labour provided on demand to each household, at minimum wages prescribed by respective states. It is also expected to enhance people’s livelihoods on a sustained basis, by developing the economic and social infrastructure in rural areas. Works focused on water conservation, land development and drought proofing are to be taken up under the Act.
Registration for Works
The adult member of every house hold who resides in rural area and is willing to do unskilled manual work, may apply for registration of household for issuance of Job Card (Schedule 2(1) of the Act).
Works in the Scheme
Works must be provided to all applicants within 15 days of receipt of an application and within a radius of 5 km from their place of residence. In case, Works cannot be provided within 15 days of receipt of the application, the applicant shall be entitled to a daily un-Works allowance (Schedule 7(1) of the Act).
Un-Works allowances Rates
The un-Works allowance rate for the first 30 days shall not be less than one-fourth of the wage rate. For the remaining period of the financial year, the un-Works allowance rate should not be less than one-half of the wage rates. In the event of any delay in the payment of un-Works allowance, the recipients shall be entitled to compensation based on the same principles as wage compensation under the Payment of Wages Act, 1936. Compensation costs shall be borne by the state government.
Minimum wages for the state shall be such that a person working for 7 h would normally earn a wage equal to the wage rate. Minimum wages are to be fixed by the state government under Section 3 of the minimum wage Act, 1948 until the time, the wage rate is fixed by the central government. However, the minimum wages shall not be at a rate less than 60 Rs per day.
Type of works under the Scheme
As per Schedule 1 of the Act, the focus of the Rural Works Guarantee Scheme shall be on the following works:
Water conservation and water harvesting
Drought proofing (Afforestation and tree plantation)
Provision of irrigation facility to land owned by SC/ST/beneficiaries under Indira Aawas Yojana1
Renovation of traditional water bodies
Desilting of tanks
Flood control and protection works including drainage in water logged areas
Rural connectivity to provide all weather access
Other works notified by the central/state governments
Application for Work
At the Gram Panchayat level, application for work is to be submitted to the Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat. The application can also be submitted to the Programme Officer. The Sarpanch of Gram Panchayat and the Programme Officer shall be bound to accept the valid applications and to issue a dated receipt to the applicant.
As per Schedule 2(1) of the Act, the Gram Panchayat will issue a job card after registration free of cost to each applicant household. The job card will contain the details of adult members of household such as names, age, address and photographs. Registration will be made for 5 years and may be renewed from time to time.
Availability of Works
Under the Act, Works shall be provided within a radius of 5 km from the residence of the applicant (Schedule 2(12) of the Act). If Works are provided outside 5 km, it must be provided within the Block with 10 % extra wage to meet additional transportation and living expenses (Schedule 2(14) of the Act). Applicants are to be intimated by written letter and a public notice shall be displayed at the office of Gram Panchayat and Programme Officer (Schedule 2(11) of the Act). Priority shall be given to women and in such a way that at least one-third of the beneficiaries shall be women (Schedule 2(6) of the Act).
Facilities at Work site
Worksite facilities are to be provided by the implementing agency (Schedule 2(27) of the Act). These include: (1) Safe drinking water; (2) Shade for children and periods of rest for workers; (3) First-aid Box for emergency treatment and minor injuries; (4) Safety equipments and measures for health hazards connected with work.
To look after the women workers’ children below the age of 6 years, one woman worker shall be deputed for every five such children. The deputed woman shall be paid wage rate (Schedule 2(29) of the Act).
Serious accidents at work site
If any person Works under the scheme or a child accompanying any such person is injured he/she shall be entitled to free of charge medical treatment which shall include accommodation, treatment and medicines (Schedule 2(24) of the Act). During the period of hospitalisation of injured worker half of the minimum wage per day is to be paid for his upkeep (Schedule 2(25) of the Act). If a person Works under a scheme dies or becomes permanently disabled by the accident at site the legal heirs of the deceased or the disabled shall be paid an ex gratia payment at the rate of Rs 25,000 by the central government.
The wage under the scheme may be paid either wholly in cash or in cash and kind. But at least one-fourth of the wages shall be paid in cash only. All payment of wages in cash and the un-Works allowance shall be made to recipients in the presence of eminent persons of the community on pre-announced dates (Schedule 23(4) of the Act). The disbursement of daily wages shall be done on a weekly basis or in any case not later than a fort night specified under the scheme (Schedule 3(3) of the Act). In case of delay of wage payments, labourers shall be entitled to receive payment of compensation as per the provisions of payment of wages Act, 1936.
The Gram Panchayat shall be responsible for identification of projects in the Gram Panchayat area and prepare a development plan as recommended by Gram Sabha and Ward Sabha (Schedule (16(1) of the Act). The Gram Panchayat shall maintain a list of possible works to be taken up as and when demand for work arises. It is also responsible for the execution and supervision of such works. The other implementing agencies can be Intermediate and District Panchayat, line departments of the Government, Public Sector Undertakings of the Central and State Governments, Cooperative Societies with a majority shareholding by the Central and State Governments, and reputed NGOs having a proven track record of performance. Self-Help Groups may also be considered as possible implementing agencies.
Sanctions and allotment of works
The Gram Panchayat shall forward its proposals in the order of priority to the Project Officer for approval. The Programme Officer must be someone not below the rank of BDO at block level (Schedule 15(1) of the Act). The Programme Officer shall allot at least 50 % of works in terms of cost, to be implemented through Gram Panchayat. The Programme Officer shall supply each Gram Panchayat with muster rolls for the works and a list of Works opportunities (Schedule 16 (4, 5 and 6) of the Act).
Provision of Social Audit
The Gram Panchayat shall make available all relevant documents; muster rolls, bills, vouchers, sanction orders and other books of accounts and papers to the Gram Sabha for the purpose of social Audit (Schedule 17(3) of the Act).
Ban on Contractors and Machines
Machines and Contractors are banned. The scheme shall not permit engaging any contractor for implementation of the project under this scheme (Schedule 1(11) of the Act). Works under this scheme shall be performed by using manual labour and not by machines (Schedule 1(12) of the Act).
Grievance Redressal Mechanism
The state government shall make rules and regulations to deal with any complaint at Block and the District level (Schedule 1(19) of the Act). If any dispute or complaint arises under the scheme against the Gram Panchayat, the matter shall be referred to Programme Officer (Schedule 23(5) of the Act). The PO shall enter every complaint in a complaint register and shall dispose the disputes and complaints within 7 days of its receipt (Schedule 23(6) of the Act). Appeal against the Programme Officer will be to the District Programme Coordinator. Appeal against the District Programme Coordinator may be with an appropriate authority designated by the state government.