Report on Convergence Initiatives in India – An Overview –

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The report examines initiatives taken to promote convergence of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme with other government schemes and programmes to enable better planning and effective investment in rural areas.

Evolving the design of the Wage Employment programmes to more effectively fight poverty, the Central Government formulated the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in 2005. With its legal framework and rights-based approach, NREGA provides employment to those who demand it and is a paradigm shift from earlier programmes. Notified on September 7, 2005, NREGA aims at enhancing livelihood security by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment, in a financial year, to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. The Act covered 200 districts in its first phase, implemented on February 2, 2006, and was extended to 130 additional districts in 2007-2008. All the remaining rural areas have been notified with effect from April 1, 2008.

NREGA is the first ever Act, internationally, that guarantees wage employment at such an unprecedented scale. The potential of NREGA spans a range of possibilities. The primary objective of this Act is augmenting wage employment. The choice of work suggested in the Act address causes of chronic poverty like drought, deforestation and soil erosion, so that the process of employment generation is maintained on a sustainable basis. The Act acts as a significant vehicle for strengthening decentralization and deepening processes of democracy by authorising local governance bodies, that is, the Panchayati Raj Institutions.

Unique features: of the Act include time-bound employment guarantee and wage payment within 15 days, facilitating incentive-disincentive structure to the State Governments for providing employment, since 90 per cent of the cost for employment provided is borne by the Central Government or payment of unemployment allowance at the State’s own cost is to be provided. The Act also mandates 33 percent participation for women.

Why Convergence ? Substantial public investments are being made for strengthening of rural economy and livelihood base of the poor, especially the marginalised groups like SC/STs and women. To effectively address the issue of poverty alleviation, there is a need to optimise efforts through inter-sectoral approaches. The convergence of different programmes like: Watershed Programmes, National Agriculture Development Programme (Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana), National Horticulture Mission, Scheme of Artificial Recharge of Ground Water through Dug well, BRGF, with NREGA will enable better planning and effective investments in rural areas. This convergence will bring in synergies between different government programmes/schemes in terms of planning, process and implementation. This will also facilitate sustainable development.

Convergence of funds from other sources can help in creation of durable assets. For instance, funds available with PRIs from other sources such as the National Finance Commission, State Finance Commission, State Departments and other Central or Centrally Sponsored Schemes such as SGSY, DPAP, DDP, IWDP, BRGF can be dovetailed with other rural development funds for the construction of durable community assets under the works permissible. However, core funds of nay schemes should not be used as substitute resources by different departments and agencies for their own activities. The Ministry of Rural Development has developed and disseminated Guidelines for Convergence of NREGS with different schemes and specific programmes viz. Indian Council of Agricultural Research, National Afforestation Programme and other schemes of the Ministry of Forest & Environment, Schemes of the Ministry of Water Resources, PMGSY (Department of Rural Development), SGSY (Department of Rural Development), Watershed Development Programmes (Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development). For this, 115 pilot districts in 22 states have been identified by the MoE&F, MoWR and ICAR.

Perceived expected outcomes from convergence initiatives include:

1) Increase in Social Capital: Collective planning and implementation among different stakeholders will enhance social capital. This will improve management and work output.

2) Increase in Physical Capital: The process will help in creating durable assets and will also improve land productivity.

3) Facilitation of Ecological Synergies: Natural resource base regeneration through different Activities such as afforestation, drought proofing, flood proofing, and watershed will lead to effective use of Resources.

4) Mitigating Effects of Climate Change: NREGA helps in addressing issues such as CO emissions 2 and industrial pollution and stemming.

5) Enhancing Economic Opportunities: Income opportunities, savings and investments may be generated through activities such as pisciculture.

6) Strengthening Democratic Processes: Convergence awareness and planning at the grassroot level will lead to greater ownership of projects.

7) Facilitating Sustainable Development: Convergence efforts through creation of durable assets, rural connectivity, productivity enhancement and capacity development lead to sustainable development.

NIRD, Civil Society Organisations/ Professional Institutions having technical competence & resources are being enlisted for monitoring of convergence pilots. This report highlights the innovative experiments and good practices happening in pilots’ districts. It also documents the lessons learnt in the light of the interactions with stakeholders in these states. In this regard, the salient features of NREGS and strengthening of PRIs, as well as CBOs have been considered as the bottom line.

Some key issues considered in the status study are:

1) What type of convergence (fund, institutional technical expertise, social mobilisation) has been attempted? How simultaneous convergence of all the dimensions can be achieved? How participatory was the process adopted? Whether PRIs or local bodies, in particular, have been involved in the planning and implementation of convergence initiatives?

2) What is the scope for achieving multi-sectoral collaboration taking into account regional diversity to make a significant contribution to project sustainability and maximisation of benefits?

3) What institutional arrangement would ensure the identification of convergence projects by the community for wider acceptance and ownership? Why the successful/innovative projects are not being replicated? How this can be institutionalized?

4)How to address the various factors (capacity, commitment) hindering the convergence planning for achieving synergy and optimal use of resources?

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