Implementation of MGNREGS in Meghalaya
In our State, we were met with challenges of achieving better implementation. Reliance on adhoc structures of Village Employment Councils and Area Employment Councils created a lot of hurdles. There was an urgent need to streamline the process to provide an impetus for better achievements. This was discussed thoroughly in the State level Workshop held on 19th October 2009 in Shillong. The workshop discussed into issues which hampered the delivery of this Scheme. Based on the recommendations of the Workshop, amendments were made to the State Scheme with an aim to smoothen the process of implementation.
There was also a lot of hue and cry over the unskilled wage rate of Rs. 70/- as it was not at par with the current market rates. The State Government increased the unskilled wage rate to Rs. 100/- per personday which has been further increased to Rs. 117/- from the current year 2011-12. As on 1st April 2012 the Government has further reviesed the wage rate to Rs.128/- per day. Increase in the wage rate has gave an impetus to the implementation.
- Phase I districts – West Garo Hills & South Garo Hills started in 2006-07
- Phase II Districts – East Khasi Hills, Ri Bhoi & Jaiñtia Hills started in 2007-08
- Phase III Districts – East Garo Hills & West Khasi Hills started in 2008-09
There was an enormous challenge during to the previous years to entrust the responsibilities of implementation on the functionaries of Village Employment Councils and Area Employment Councils. Inspite of the initial hurdles, time witnessed a change in the perspective of the people. People, especially in the under developed areas, embraced the change.
They slowly realised the transformation which MGNREGA could bring into their daily livelihood. The challenge of lack of manpower to render constant monitoring for each work in the village was addressed effectively. Additional personnel were recruited and placed at the disposal of the Programme Officers. These included Additional Programme Officers, Junior Engineers and Technical Assistants. The poor network of Banks and Post Offices is still a pending issue and the wages in most areas could still not be transferred through the accounts.
- New institutions have been formed for implementation of MGNREGS viz. Village Employment Council, Area Employment Council, Block Employment Council and District Employment Council
- The Programme Officer issues work commencement letter to the VEC/AEC or other line departments, strictly following the priority indicated in the administrative sanction proceedings issued by the District Programme Coordinator
- Every AEC/VEC maintains a Register of Works for which work commencement letters are received for the financial year
- VECs make payments for implementation of the scheme in the village and AECs make payments for works executed at its level
- The PO issues the order for payment of wages to the workers and send cheque/draft directly to the Bank Account of VEC which is operated as a joint account of two designated signatories from the Programme Executive Committee of VEC, viz Secretary and one Woman member
Training and Capacity Building
The SIRD being the nodal agency for all matters pertaining to training and capacity building have carried out relentless effort in imparting training on MGNREGA in the State, District and Block levels. The training of Block Functionaries and Leaders of AECs/VECs, Technical Assistants and Data Entry Operators was carried out in order to provide an effective implementation of MGNREGA. The District Programme Coordinators have also carried out different types of IEC activities to create awareness and motivation to the people, organised programmes for Officers of Line Departments, capsule training to Technical Assistants and Gram Sevaks.
MGNREGA empower villages in Meghalaya
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act now named, as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act Scheme is a right-based demand driven wage employment programme for people in rural areas irrespective of their status of BPL or APL.
Although the programme was launched in the country on February 2, 2006 by the Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh but the actual implementation of the programme in Meghalaya did not commence immediately with the rest of the country. This was due to the fact that State of Meghalaya is not within the purview of Part IX of the Constitution. Neither Panchayati Raj Institutions nor local counCils/authorities are in existence in the State at the time when NREGA was launched. In absence of these Institutions, the State has to explore its own institutional arrangement resembling of a Panchayati Raj Institution and constitute them right from the scratch for implementation of NREGA. There were multifarious challenges during the preparatory works starting from the formation of the Village Employment Councils and Area Employment Councils which are empowered village institutions for implementing the Act in the State, till these institutions become capable to function as a regular system not only for execution of works but also as planners, record keepers and vigilance and monitoring units. It was an enormous task and the process took time for the District authorities to bring in this system of these Village Councils and to entrust them with all the responsibilities. The composition, powers, functions and responsibilities of Village Employment Councils (VECs), Area Employment Councils (AECs), Block Employment Councils (BECs) and District Employment Councils (DECs) are briefly explained below.
- Village Employment Council (VEC)
At the village level there is a Village Employment Council constituted under paragraph 7A of MGNREGS, by every village constituting of every male and female heads of each household. Three elected members from each VEC including the traditional headmen and female member constituted a Council. The Secretary for the VEC is elected by the members of the VEC from among the three representatives excluding the headman. These three Office bearers of VEC to represent the AEC are elected in a general body meeting of VEC in the presence of the Programme Officer (PO) or his representative. Office bearers of VEC work on voluntary basis. Each VEC is vested with powers and functions of Gram Sabha as prescribed under the Act and assisted by a Community Coordinator.
- Area Employment Councils (AEC)
The Area Employment Councils (AECs) is constituted at the Cluster level comprising of villages with in a 2.5km radius. There is one or more VECs within the jurisdiction area of an AEC. All the areas should be contiguous to existing Gram Sevak Circle of the Block as far as practicable. Any dispute of settling the jurisdiction of the AEC is referred to the Deputy Commissioner for final decision.
This council consists of 3(three) elected representatives (reps) from each VEC falling under the jurisdiction area of one AEC. The election process may be in the presence of at-least 70% attendance of the VEC members and the PO or representative. The total members of the AEC should not exceed 20 (twenty) numbers and 30% of the members of AEC must be women.
The office bearers of the AEC comprise of an elected Chairperson, Secretary and members, who will be elected in the presence of PO or representatives. Chairperson and Secretary will be empowered by the Council to operate a joint Bank account in a Nationalised Bank under the jurisdictional area of the Council or its vicinity in the name of the Council and maintain proper accounts/records of all receipts and disbursements / transactions. The member of the AEC will work on voluntary basis.
The jurisdiction area of AECs shall be identified by the Block Development Officer in consultation and concurrence with the VECs. The AECs function in close coordination with the involvement of the members of the VEC while implementing, monitoring and supervising the works of each village. All the works must be clearly approved and sanctioned for each village separately.
Each AEC is vested with powers, functions, roles and responsibilities of a Gram Panchayat by the District Programme Officer/Programme Officer.
- Block Employment Councils (BEC)
The existing Block Selection Committee has been notified as Block Employment Councils (BECs) for every block. Each Block Employment Council is invested with the responsibilities of the Block Panchayat. It finalize and approve block level plan which consists of consolidated shelf of projects to be taken up under the scheme, supervise and monitor the projects taken up in the block and perform such other functions as may be assigned by the DEC and the State Council. Each BEC is vested with powers, functions, roles and responsibilities of a Block Panchayat. The BEC will identify the works to the tune of 25% of total entitled allocation. These works shall be preferably those works involving two or more villages. However the works shall be implemented by involving the concerned VECs.
The BEC shall be guided by the PO/BDO. The BDOs and the line Departments shall execute the works identified and approved by the BEC as per the provisions of the NREGS by actively involving VECs.
The BDOs and the line Departments are identified as implementing agencies based on the technical expertise available with them for the 8 different permissible categories of works under schedule I of NREG Act, 2005.
- District Employment Council (DEC)
At the District level, the Governing Body of the DRDA has been notified as the District Employment Council and invested with the responsibilities of the District/Zila Panchayat. The District Employment Council is the principal authority for planning and implementation of the Scheme. The DEC approves the District Employment Guarantee Scheme Plan, which includes the consolidated Block plans, its own proposals and project proposals received from other line departments. It shall also review the programme implementation, supervise and monitor projects taken up at the District and Block levels and perform such other works as may be assigned by the State Council.
For structuring the above model it took 6(six) months and finally a clearance from the Ministry was received in July 2006 with certain suggestions for amendment in our State Scheme. State Scheme was notified in July 2006. Intensive training and capacity buildings were given to AEC / VEC members and Block Employment Committee members to equip them with the knowledge of implementation procedures by SIRD and District Programme Coordinators both at the district and block levels. Orientation Course to Computer Operators and all the stakeholders were also a tremendous task.