Guaranteed job for Madvi Madka, India

The National Rural Employment Guarantee gives directly benefits residents of Chingawaram village in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. Photos by Samrat Mandal/UNDP
Madvi Madka, from the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. (Photo: UNDP)

Madvi Madka, from the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, has one thing in common with many international business tycoons: he is part of the construction sector that has been crippled by the global economic crisis.

But Madvi Madka is no real-estate shark. He is a farmer and a daily-wage earner who feeds his family of five partly by selling forest and agricultural produce in his remote village of Chingawaram in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh.

Highlights

  • A government employment scheme provides a minimum of 100 days of paid work per year for landless laborers and marginal farmers in India.
  • The employment programme benefits some 46 million household, and almost half of its beneficiaries are women.
  • Since the launch of the programme, the income per person per day has more than doubled, from Rs. 200 to Rs. 500 (USD 4 to USD 10).

Madka's income from these produce sales is enough to support his familiy for four months of the year, but to sustain them for the remaining eight months, he must travel to nearby cities to find day-laborer jobs in construction.

Over the past year, however, Madka has been unable to find work in the cities. He does not know what has led to this sudden misfortune, but he is not alone.

In India, where around 320 million people are living on less than one dollar a day, the global economic crisis has affected not only the formal sector, but also the country’s huge informal economy.

Among the newly unemployed are many migrant workers, who earn their daily income through casual jobs. Their existence tends to be ignored by official statistics.

But Madka and his family have found a safety net in the form of the Indian Government’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), popularly known as the Job Guarantee Act, which was enacted on 7 September, 2005. The Act differs from previous employment programmes in that it legally binds the Government to provide employment for up to 100 days a year to those who demand it.

“The NREGA has helped in slowing down migration from rural to urban and in some cases is even leading to reverse migration,” says Mr. Rajat Kumar, the officer in charge of Dantewada, the district where Madka lives.

Madka learned about the Act through an awareness raising programme conducted in his village. Supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the programme taught him about his right to work under the Act and gave him guidance on joining the job guarantee programme.

“At the meeting I learned that through the NREGA I could get daily wages from the Government to develop my own land,” Madka said.

With these wages, Madka has constructed a pond on his land, which  has become instrumental to maintaining his improved livelihood.

The pond serves to waters his field and cattle, and allows his family to grow and sell vegetables year round. It also allows Madka to rear fish, which he sells for extra income. 

As a key partner of the Indian Government in carrying out the job guarantee programme, UNDP has strengthened the Government’s capacity to implement the programme by setting up a Technical Secretariat with experts in monitoring, training and communications.

UNDP has also generated awareness about the Act among potential participants, informing them about their rights and the benefits of the programme. This has proved to be crucial for creating demand for work.

Furthermore, UNDP has helped to ensure efficient administration and the just payment of wages by introducing innovative technologies like smart cards, biometric devices and ATMs, and by digitizing information.

Madka hopes that other residents in his village who have returned empty-handed from the cities can learn from his success and participate in the job guarantee programme in these difficult times.

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