Reopening the debate over the previous United Progressive Alliance government's flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje today wondered why it could not be implemented as a scheme rather than a statutory law.
''It is a moot issue why rural employment should be guaranteed by an Act, and why such employment cannot be delivered, or even guaranteed, as a scheme,'' Raje has said in a letter sent to Union Minister for Rural Development Nitin Gadkari on 6 June, accessed by The Indian Express and reported today.
Raje, currently in Delhi, is scheduled to meet Gadkari today after having strongly pushed for labour law reforms with union minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Thursday.
''It is difficult to see the advantages of an Act, except that it can lead to increased litigation by all manner of organisations. Whether it is to be NREGA or NREGS is a matter of debate and decision,'' Raje said in the letter.
The BJP supported the Act in Parliament when it was put to vote in 2005 and enacted. It was hailed by activists as it guaranteed minimum employment for a fixed number of days as a right, not just as a scheme or largesse like in several food-for-work schemes prevalent in states like Maharashtra since the 1970s.
In her letter to Gadkari, Raje said that some issues in the Act need a rethink. She said the focus of the scheme ''should be the creation of durable assets and sustainable livelihoods''.
She further said, ''Employment generated through departmental works should be counted as employment for NREGA purposes, on the basis that only the poorest and needy would seek hard manual work ... expenditure on skill upgradation should be included in the NREGA. This will enable creation of sustainable livelihoods.''