Saturday, July 21, 2012

‘Importance of Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in better management of MGNREGA’

Today ‘grass-roots’ actors and concepts are intertwined in the theory and practice of the development profession. Community development promotes human development by ‘empowering communities and strengthening their capacity for self-sustaining development’. While talking about different government welfare schemes for community development, MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) is a job guaranteed scheme in India, aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing hundred days of wage-employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. The scheme launched on 2nd February 2006 as a momentous initiative towards pro-poor growth. For the first time, rural communities have been given not just a development program but also a regime of rights. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (NREGA) guarantees 100 days of employment in a financial year to any rural household whose adult members are willing to do unskilled manual work. This work guarantee also serve other objectives: generating productive assets and skills thereby boosting the rural economy, protecting the environment, empowering rural women, reducing rural urban migration and fostering social equity, among others. The Act offers an opportunity to strengthen our democratic processes by entrusting principle role to Panchayats at all levels in its implementation and promises transparency through involvement of community at planning and monitoring stages.

For our purposes, ‘Importance of Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in better management of MGNREGA’. Community-based organizations (CBOs) are defined as voluntary associations of community members that reflect the interests of a broader constituency. Though (CBOs) are small, informal organizations, indications are that they provide various services towards the development of rural communities and can be used as channels to route development information and other resources required to improve living conditions in rural communities. CBOs are, however, constrained from providing a more diverse range of services to their communities due to certain basic weaknesses. Leadership development, networking with both local and external organizations and registration with an official public agency are identified and discussed as sustainable strategies to strengthen CBOs, improve upon their service delivery standards and place them in a position to tap available opportunities to develop the communities they are located in rural areas.

For the better management of the MGNREGA scheme, CBOs, as they are intricately connected to the communities and stakeholders around them, must be viewed in their wholeness. They are key actors in their respective contexts, and in actuality, they are the products of the very systems responsible for community development at the local level. Recognizing the strengths and capacities that already exist in CBOs is vital to supporting genuine, demand-driven organizational development that can make grassroots groups an even more vital link to the increased well-being of vulnerable community.

 Many criticisms have been levelled at the MGNREGA, which has been argued to be no more effective than other poverty reduction programs in India. The program is overwhelmed with controversy about corrupt officials, deficit financing as the source of funds for the program, poor implementation, and unintended destructive effect on poverty, been built, no new homes, schools or hospitals or any infrastructure to speak of has resulted from the program. In this contrast CBOs can play an important role to minimize this entire problem and have capacity to do better management of MGNREGA.


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