Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam: Paper - IV (General Studies – III) - 11 February 2019


Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam


UPSC Syllabus:

  • Paper-IV: General Studies -III (Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)

Q. “Strengthening the MGNREGA would be more prudent than a targeted cash transfer plan like PM-KISAN.” Discuss. (250 words)

Model Answer:

Approach:

  • Why in news?
  • Introduction
  • Comparison
  • Conclusion

Why in news?

This year’s budget had announced a new scheme for vulnerable landholding farmer families named Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN).

Introduction

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is an act passed by the Indian Parliament that guarantees the right to work by augmenting livelihood security in India’s rural regions by giving a minimum of 100 days of work in one year. The wage employment is offered to all households from which an adult member volunteers for unskilledmanual labour. MGNREGA plays a key role in offering economic security, bringing down rural-urban migration, protection of the environment, empowerment of rural women, encouraging social equity, etc.

In order to address farmers’ distress, a new cash transfer scheme has been announced in this year’s Budget called Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) under which “vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land up to 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of ₹ 6,000 per year”.

Comparison

  • A month of MGNREGA earnings for a household is more than a year’s income support through PM-KISAN anywhere in the country.
  • PM-KISAN is a targeted cash transfer programme and MGNREGA is a universal programme. Any rural household willing to do manual work is eligible under the Act. According to the 2011 Socio-Economic and Caste Census, around 40% of rural households are landless and depend on manual labour. The landless can earn through the MGNREGA but are not eligible for the PM-KISAN scheme. Notwithstanding the meagre amount, the PM-KISAN might be pitting the landless against a small farmer.
  • It is unclear how tenant farmers, those without titles, and women farmers would be within the ambit of the scheme.
  • There is also substantial evidence to demonstrate that universal schemes are less prone to corruption than targeted schemes. In targeted programmes, it is very common to have errors of exclusion, i.e., genuine beneficiaries get left out. Such errors go unrecorded and people continue to be left out.
  • PM-KISAN would follow a payment system similar to MGNREGS. In case of MNREGA, timely generation of pay-orders has improved over the years, but still less than a third of the payments were made on time. So, the targeted cash transfer scheme is likely to fall short of its promises in terms of payment.
  • In case of MNREGA, wage payments rejection due to technical errors such as incorrect account numbers or faulty Aadhaar mapping and lack of clear national guidelines to rectify these, led to continued harassment faced by people. So building a new scheme on similar shaky platforms may not be fruitful.
  • The success of the PM-KISAN is contingent on there being reliable digital land records and reliable rural banking infrastructure — both are questionable at best.
  • The MGNREGA is neither an income support programme nor just an asset creation programme. It is a labour programme meant to strengthen participatory democracy through community works. It is a legislative mechanism to strengthen the constitutional principle of the right to life. That the MGNREGA works have demonstrably strong multiplier effects are yet another reason to improve its implementation.

Conclusion

It is in some of these contexts that strengthening an existing universal programme such as the MGNREGA would have been a prudent move instead of introducing a hasty targeted cash transfer programme.

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