The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act: Towards Governance & Conservation of Natural Resources

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"In recent times India has seen many people friendly policies been implemented across the country, this through the arduous efforts of social networks/NGO's and individuals. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), which was started in the year 2006, is one such policy, which will soon be implemented in all 596 districts of the country. This paper explores the role of the scheme in addressing rural poverty by ensuring hundred days of wage employment as a right and how this can be exploited to its optimum to enable village communities to plan for the restoration and regeneration of severely degraded common lands/ building of village assets and thus also addressing the conservation of natural resources. Work on restoring individual farmlands through the Act, is a further incentive for rural people. "As an organization which works on a pan India scale, The Foundation for Ecological Security (FES, a registered NGO) addresses issues of common land regeneration in several different agro-climatic zones of the country. The NREGS seems very encouraging to us as the Act enables many highly vulnerable and degraded lands to come under some governance and for these to be restored, in dryland areas it also seems to be the panacea to agricultural productivity and a solution to food security. "The author's experiences being rich from the Southern Rajasthan district of Udaipur, the paper draws from experiences of the FES team in being an implementing agencyin the Act and further explores the scope of natural resource governance through the same. The role of village institutions such as Forest Protection and Grazing- land Development Committees (which FES has been promoting through Government mandates), has also suddenly found a new lease of life as they would be the ideal agencies to plan along with the Gram Panchayats for their village. This more so as the Act is promoting the democratic decentralization of powers by making the lowest rung of governance, the Gram Panchayats the nodal agencies for planning, implementation and governance. "The implications of the Act are immense as never before has there been such a large flow of money for the restoration of these commons. All the departments of the government are involved in the Scheme and have found it much easier to implement development for an area in a holistic manner given the assured monetary backing and ability to take an integrated approach. It serves as a statement of the Indian government in recognizing the importance of the degrading commons and an understanding of how this is the lynchpin to agricultural productivity as well as a support to rural peoples livelihoods. This also reduces the vulnerability of these otherwise wastelands, which are being handed over to be put to ostensible productive use by industrial units and others economic forces."



poverty, rural affairs, conservation, local governance and politics, employment