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The State of Maharashtra adopted the Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS) as early as 1965 to alleviate poverty by providing gainful employment to the poorer sections of the community in the rural area. The State Government gave statutory support to the scheme through the enactment of the Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Act, 1977, which was implemented from 26 January 1979.
The success of the Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Act prompted the Government of India to adopt the same idea and thus the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) took shape, was and finally passed in September 2005. The Act gives legal guarantee of a hundred days of wage employment in a financial year to adult members of a rural household who demand employment and are willing to do unskilled manual work. The Act would be applicable to areas notified by the Central Government and would cover the whole country within five years. The objective of the Act is to enhance the livelihood security of the people in rural areas by generating wage employment through works that develop the infrastructure base of that area. The choice of works suggested addresses causes of chronic poverty like drought, deforestation, and soil erosion. The employment thus generated under the Act would have the potential to transform the geography f poverty when effectively implemented.
The principal aim of the Employment Guarantee Scheme, Government of Maharashtra, is to provide gainful and productive employment to the people in the rural areas and in the areas of ‘C’ class Municipal Councils, who are in need of work and are prepared to do manual labour but cannot find it on their own. National Informatics Centre (NIC) Maharashtra State Centre is providing the necessary ICT (Information and Communication Technology) support to EGS Department, Planning Commission, Government of Maharashtra, in computerization of EGS for a more effective, accessible, prompt and transparent governance, which benefits not only the rural people but also the government.
Employment Guarantee Scheme Monitoring System
To provide e-Governance for effective implementation and monitoring of the fiscal and physical progress of Employment Guarantee Scheme, the concept of Employment Guarantee Scheme Monitoring System has been evolved. The information provided in the website helps to bring out transparency and efficiency in the working and implementation of the scheme. The website contains valuable information and data regarding the scheme, which will help to understand the basic ideas behind the launching and implementation of the scheme. It also contains districtwise weekly labour attendance of the labourers. Online application software helps the state level department to keep a close check on the authentic labour attendance, to control the expenditure, starting and completion of all the works, various stages of works, strictly follow the procedure regarding work approval, sanctioning, undertaking and implementation as laid down by the Government of Maharashtra.
The Employment Guarantee Scheme Monitoring System is an e-Governance web application, which enables the EGS department to monitor the progress of implementation of various works as part of Employment Guarantee Scheme. The software is used by the State Government for timely data collection and decision-making. It is accessible by various authorities and work agencies over NICNET, the high speed VSAT based national info-highway. The stakeholders include common citizens in rural areas, EGS implementing agencies, offices of the Deputy Collectors and District Collectors in the district level, office of the Divisional Commissioners at Division level and EGS, Planning Department, Government of Maharashtra. The main benefits of the application software is to make information available easily, to effectively monitor the works at different level of administration, to summarize and consolidate information effectively and to monitor the budget and payment of wages to the unskilled labourers for effective implementation of the scheme.
The Employment Guarantee Scheme Monitoring System has two deliverables – the website and the online application software (http://mahaegs.nic.in or http://mahaegs.gov.in and http://164.100. 150.163/egs).
Problems in EGS implementation
During the implementation of EGS scheme, various problems have been identified. These relate to Administration, Planning at District level, Execution at Village level and Budget.
Administration: Three-tier adminis-trative set-up is used to implement the scheme to ensure close and effective liaison and continuous supervision. Committees for planning, direction, control and coordination are set up at State, District, and Panchayat Samiti level. The State Planning Department looks after the administration, provision of funds, monitoring, and evaluation of the programme.
Planning at District level: District Collector is the main coordinator of the scheme at the District level. Every Collector is asked for blueprint of work to be made ready by the end of September every year. Projects for provision of work within 8 kms are to be planned and project budget up to INR50 lakhs (US$5mn) only has to be approved by the Collector. This process is a cumbersome one without proper computerisation.
Execution at village level: At the work execution site there are numerous data, which need to be sorted out such as maintenance of labour/muster roll at work site, fortnightly payment to the labourers on volume of work done. To make use of these data in a meaningful and organised way, the need for computerisation therefore arises.
Budget: As implementation of the scheme involves huge funds, budgeting becomes complicated. The works are invariably executed departmentally by engaging labourers on muster rolls. The labourers are however not paid according to the number of days they remain present on the work but are paid according to the quantity of work done on the basis of rates for different items are so fixed that an average person working diligently for 7 hours a day should earn wage equal to the minimum wage prescribed for agriculture labour for the concerned zone under the Minimum Wages Act. Zone-wise prevailing rates of wages under Employment Guarantee Scheme revised as on 26thMarch 2001 are as follows: Zone 1 – INR51 (US$1.15); Zone 2 – INR49 (US$1.10); Zone 3 – INR47 (US$1.06); Zone 4 – INR45 (US$1.01). Without proper computerisation budget management proves to be a difficult task.
The prime idea behind the computeri-sation of EGS is to provide easy access of the EGS information to the common man and to bring transparency in implemen-tation of the scheme. Though it is imprac- tical to address all the issues in a short period, introduction of EGS Monitoring System has provided the following benefits: Information available easily; Effective monitoring of EGS work at different level of administration; Effective and timely planning at District level; Easy summarisation and consolidation of the information; Effective implementation of the scheme; and Effective monitoring of budget and payment of wages.
The project is being implemented in four districts of Maharashtra. Training has been imparted to officials of EGS Department in four divisions of the State. The project deals with monitoring of work and labour attendance.
The project can be enhanced in future by incorporating online registration of labourers, capturing vigilance cell activities and other modules so as to cover the whole aspects of Employment Guarantee Scheme. It can also be adopted for similar other schemes.