Business, Economics and Jobs

India's rural jobs scheme gets a bad rap


Punjab, India's breadbasket state, has long blamed India's National Rural Employment Guarantee for rising wages and a shortage of laborers during the peak season. But the migrant workers themselves tell a very different story.



For years, wealthy farmers in Punjab -- India's breadbasket state -- have been complaining that India's rural employment guarantee scheme has resulted in a shortage of migrant labor. But it appears they're just whinging about higher wages that have resulted from other factors altogether.

India's Economic Times newspaper reports that migrant laborers themselves say that the jobs provided by the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme initiated in 2005 are no competition for farm work in Punjab -- which is one good reason that the number of migrant workers hasn't changed a jot since the program began, according to the Center for Research in Rural and Industrial Development in Chandigarh.

Under the welfare program, one member of every rural family is entitled to 100 days of manual labor at the local minimum wage. 

More than 100 migrants interviewed by the newspaper in Punjab's rice belt of Patiala and Sangrur districts said that the scheme was not enough to keep them from migrating for paddy transplantation work.

"We will get paid around Rs 1,800 ($33) per acre that we sow. We will work for several farmers, so by the end of the sowing season, we can each earn up to Rs 8,000 ($145). Every few days, we wire the money home. Compare this with doing NREGS work, where you will get just a few thousand rupees for the whole year, and that too much delayed," the paper quoted Babu Lal Sahni, a migrant worker from Bihar who has been coming to Punjab the past four seasons.