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Does EGS Require Restructuring

for Poverty Alleviation and Gender Equality?


II – Gender Concerns and Issues for Restructuring
The Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS) initiated in Maharashtra in the early 1970s is the
oldest and the largest public works programme in the developing world. It has been the
subject of numerous studies that have highlighted the positive effects of EGS on the
rural economy of Maharashtra. Yet none of these has furnished concrete evidence for most of
these inferred effects. Moreover, there have been no investigations since the 1990s, when
both the rural economy of Maharashtra and the EGS have undergone significant changes in
size, character and direction. This article reviews the EGS to assess whether it requires
restructuring for poverty alleviation and gender equality.
Part I of the article (which appeared in the issue of April 17, 2004) examined the concept,
design and delivery system of the EGS, so as to assess its effectiveness against poverty and
pinpoint its limitations. Part II highlights the issues including gender concerns that need to be
addressed before restructuring the scheme.
MAITHREYI KRISHNARAJ, DIVYA PANDEY, ARUNA KANCHI

E
conomic development of Maharashtra is today dominated credit, privatisation of natural resources, particularly water,
by the secondary and tertiary sectors. The primary sector intellectual property right restrictions, lack of access to new
is the laggard: of the State Domestic Product (SDP) at current markets and technologies, volatility of international tastes and
prices of Rs 21,22,160 million in 1999-2000, the primary sector prices, depressed farm gate prices of food articles due to cheap
contributed only 17.18 per cent primarily due to the poor perfor- imports will all impoverish the small (and marginal) farmers and
mance of agriculture. Between 1960-2000 agriculture grew at 2.92 agricultural workers by dampening on-farm employment and real
per cent per annum, only barely exceeding the population growth wages, at least in the short run.3 Globalisation has also seen the
rate of 2.24 per cent [GoM 2002b]. Inadequate precipitation and dismantling of policies that defended rural livelihoods (input
its uneven distribution have meant recurrent droughts: in 1965- subsidies, support prices for output, priority credit to agriculture,
66, 1970-73, 1984-87, 1992 and 2001-2003. It has also been to name a few) and the slashing of investment on agriculture
estimated that at any given time, 35 per cent of the geographical and rural development.4 Effects on the environment of market
area and 38 per cent of the population of the state is permanently driven consumption of fertilisers and pesticides, over exploitation
experiencing a drought [GoM 1987]. Combined with climatic of land and water may be expected to adversely impact overall
factors, the slow growth of irrigation (in spite of massive invest- productivity of agriculture in the near future unless preventive
ments, only 14.5 per cent of the net sown area was irrigated in measures are undertaken [Shiva 2002]. Under such conditions,
1999-2000), unviable farm size, unequal distribution of opera- it is clear that social security nets are indispensable for the
tional landholdings and lack of diversification have been the protection of the rural poor against market fluctuations: a strong
major stumbling blocks for agricultural growth. Yet, more than case exists not only for the continuation but also the expansion
60 per cent of the state’s workforce depends on this sector. The of the EGS. The scheme, in fact has the potential to change the
low elasticity of employment with respect to value added in face of rural Maharashtra if used imaginatively.
agriculture [Bhalla and Hazel 2003] limits the scope of rural The EGS will have to be restructured before it can function
labour absorption and productive employment. The result: preva- effectively as a poverty alleviation scheme. Restructuring implies
lence of high unemployment rates1 and widespread rural poverty more than merely filling in the lacunae that have emerged in the
characterised by high degree of instability of incomes. Estimates 30 years of its operation. Restructuring involves changes that
of the incidence of rural poverty in the state range from 24 per will transform the scheme into a true poverty alleviation tool
cent [GoM 2002a] to 38 per cent [Sundaram and Tendulkar rather than merely a fire fighting or relief operation (a hastily
2003].2 Despite the laurels earned and not withstanding official reformulated scheme would be self-defeating). Below we raise
claims of falling demand for EGS in the 1990s, it is obvious that some issues/questions that need to be debated in this context.
the scheme is as much needed today as it was in the early 1970s.
The opening up of the economy, particularly agriculture to EGS for ‘Relief’ or Poverty Alleviation
international trade in the 1990s has impacted farmers in many
ways. Changes such as liberalised export of agricultural products, Should EGS continue to be used, as it is today, as a relief
commercialisation/corporatisation of agriculture and the entry of operation or be extended to fight poverty? Using the scheme as
new technologies will favour resource rich farmers. In contrast, a tool against poverty implies looking beyond the effects of
other changes such as expensive inputs like seeds, fertiliser, poverty to the reasons that underlie it. Within the framework of

Economic and Political Weekly April 24, 2004 1741


a wage employment programme this means going beyond merely poverty line?). Two kinds of benefits accrue from the scheme:
providing a few days/weeks of employment during drought years (a) employment and income benefits and (b) benefits from the
or the lean agricultural season, to expanding mainstream employ- assets created. We shall consider each in turn.
ment opportunities through asset creation.5 It also means rede- In the delivery of employment benefits, as discussed earlier,
fining the expected impact of the scheme in terms of reduction EGS suffers from exclusion errors. A part of the very poor –
in the population below the poverty line rather than merely the landless and chronically unemployed – are not covered under
person-days generated. the scheme. To take an illustration from our field experience,
The transformation will need to begin with the explicit articu- the very poor of Dahanu – the landless labour – migrate to work
lation of poverty reduction as the objective of the EGS. Failure in brick kilns and other industries in neighbouring Kanwel and
to do this has led, as our discussions with all levels of EGS Boisar attracted by better wages and immediate payment. They
hierarchy revealed, to the pervasive perception of the scheme return to Dahanu at Holi (mid-March) and having exhausted their
– by policy-makers, line agencies and by the participants – as earnings, stay back working on EGS projects during April, May
an employment programme of the last resort, reflected in the and June. As EGS earnings begin to get exhausted during the
deliberations of review committees and even in the official data rainy season, recruiters from industries outside offer advances
systems. While the review committees are preoccupied with to tide over the rainy season. At the end of the rainy season
employment generation during crisis years and implementation (October) these recruiters come back to the villages to pick up
lacunae, official data is confined to expenditure incurred and those who owe them money. They are then made to work in the
employment generated under the scheme at district and state brick kilns/ factories, being provided with just enough money
levels. With respect to assets, data is thin with little beyond the to survive, in near bonded labour conditions. They are allowed
expenditure incurred and numerical counts of the various assets to go back to their villages just before Holi with a pittance as
created. Even the impact of the scheme is measured officially payment. This vicious circle then continues. When EGS work
in terms of person-day figures rather than in terms of the reduction begins in earnest after the rainy season, in December-January,
in poverty. Discussion of EGS data base is taken up later. many of the poorest have already migrated. This illustration also
Admission of poverty alleviation as the objective also implies underlines the importance of providing income during the
attribution of explicit weights to employment provision vis-à- monsoons, which are periods of peak starvation [Ramachandran
vis asset creation since a trade-off is often involved between the 2003]. Since practically no EGS projects are underway during
short-term and long-term components of poverty alleviation.6 the monsoons, officials we met during our field visit suggested
This, it must be pointed out at the outset is a policy or political paying the participants partly in grains during the period just
decision rather than a technical one. Appropriate project selection preceding the rains thereby discouraging the acceptance of loan
criteria will also need to be formulated and communicated to from recruiters and thus breaking the cycle. Payment in kind has
line agencies in unambiguous terms, since their choice of projects always been beset with problems primarily due to the inferior
ultimately determines the type and pattern of assets created. Line quality of grains as well as the attendant costs of time and money
agencies will need to be suitably sensitised to the ‘true mission’ involved in collecting it from the public distribution centres [see
of the scheme through open dialogues between various levels Dev 1996, for a discussion of linking PDS to EGS]. This aspect
of the hierarchy. We have already seen how because of the present needs to be looked into carefully.
system of top-down administration and the lack of criteria, the The problem of exclusion can be ultimately resolved within
line agencies, which are far removed from the policy centre are the present (self-targeting) framework of the EGS only through
likely to make unsystematic choice of assets depending primarily better location and timing of projects based on the identification
on their employment potential. It is due to this bias, for example, of this section of the poor through careful panchayat samiti based
that more roads continue to be built in water-starved Jawhar in manpower planning. The very poor can be brought within
preference to water and soil conservation works. An advantage EGS ambit immediately by extending EGS activity throughout
of giving explicit weights is that they can be varied depending the year.
on whether the given year is a bad agricultural year requiring Although the asset building activity benefits all classes of the
relief in the form of employment or a good year when assets poor, the benefits of the assets themselves accrue to the land-
could be built without too much regard for labour absorption. owning section of the rural populace – the large farmers (non-
In practice this may mean that EGS allocation is not cut back poor) but also the small and marginal farmers (poor). Soil and
during good years and during the peak agricultural season. This moisture conservation, minor irrigation and forest development
will undoubtedly involve considerable increase in annual expen- benefit the land owners by increasing the productivity of land;
diture. Although the EGS Fund has a massive balance its utilisation roads by facilitating the movement of inputs and output. The
is a matter of political decision.7 The changes considered above landless poor do not benefit directly from these assets – at least
are at the core of the transformation. Nevertheless there are other in the short run. The possibilities of also creating other kinds
issues that warrant a rethink. of assets under EGS that will directly benefit the landless need
to be explored. New avenues such as collective ownership of
Who Benefits from EGS assets, creation of assets that generate non-farm employment –
agro processing, processing and value addition to locally
If EGS is to be used as a tool against poverty then it is necessary available material such as bamboo and coir, production of herbal
to decide who has priority of access to the benefits – the poor medicines, recycling enterprises and services for example,
(small and marginal farmers) or the poorest (the landless chroni- wasteland development and tree pattas should be examined.
cally unemployed). This is both a political decision and technical NGOs may have an important role to play in identifying such
decision (which strategy is more efficient, raising the standard opportunities, designing training programmes and even running
of living of the poorest or pulling the not-so-poor above the them.

1742 Economic and Political Weekly April 24, 2004


What kind of jobs should EGS provide? As already discussed the coverage where the patron-client relationships are entrenched
EGS continues to provide back breaking unskilled manual labour. in local politics and where time, education and health constraints
What kind of skill/training needs to be imparted if participants keep the poor from participation.
are to be weaned away from EGS and prepared for mainstream As for the EGS, implementation (if not asset selection) has
employment and how to organise this within the framework of been much better in areas with active voluntary organisations
the scheme are questions that warrant careful consideration. or social activists. Awareness creation, conscientisation and
Apart from skill upgrading, it should be possible to identify education of the finer points of the scheme are basic ingredients
avenues of using non-manual labour that goes to improve village for generating people participation in the decision-making pro-
life (The Times of India, July 2003). It might be also possible cess. NGOs and social activists should also aim to provide an
to undertake under EGS, the maintenance of EGS assets. alternative channel of information. Besides this panchayat leaders
NGOs and officials could use EGS sites to disseminate infor- as well as the poor require to be trained in participation and
mation about diverse occupations not usually considered locally decision-making. The creation of a separate organisation for the
like bamboo or coir products, value addition to herbal medicine, administration of EGS has sometimes been suggested. This does
poultry or livestock rearing, organic farming especially of not appear to offer any special advantages and is bound to increase
vegetables, etc. They could also provide information on local administrative costs and decrease the benefit flow to the parti-
training centres, where they exist. cipants. Bureaucracy-facilitated people participation may be the
answer: bureaucracy can be pressurised to take steps to involve
What Kind of Assets the people especially in planning/project identification and
monitoring. Besides sensitising the bureaucracy to the needs of
What kind of assets should EGS create? The EGS Act mandates the poor, a sense of ownership of the projects in their area will
the creation of only ‘productive’ assets under the scheme and also have to be transmitted. Officials will also require training
gives a definition of productivity. This definition, however, raises in people and information management. The deliberate develop-
more questions than it answers. Productivity is a very difficult ment of a ‘success story’ in each tahsil could help motivate people
concept to assess and requires the articulation of the priorities to see the concrete benefits of collective action. Ultimately
between alternative aims (drought relief or asset creation), and effective participation of the poor can be made possible only
alternative needs (roads or water), between different classes of through better education and health care provision.
the beneficiaries (small and marginal farmers or landless labourers
or women), the weight given to the gestation period of projects Who Owns the Assets
(long-term or short-term projects) and finally, the cost of pro-
ductive assets. It is imperative to define productivity in such a With whom should the ownership of EGS assets be vested?
way that it results in the creation of the right kinds of assets – This question has several dimensions. At one level is the debate
assets that fulfil the perceived needs of the community and those of public versus private assets. The EGS was envisaged as a
that expand mainstream opportunities for employment are both ‘public works programme’ mandated to create assets in the public
required – and to devise a way to operationalise this new defi- domain. This principle was assiduously followed in the early
nition in the selection of EGS works, if the scheme is to function years of the scheme. However, in the 1990s, EGS diversified
effectively against poverty. Without a proper definition of pro- into projects that resulted in the development of private assets.
ductivity it is also impossible to assess the worth of assets created The horticulture sub-scheme is a useful illustration in view of
under EGS. the emerging government plans to considerably expand horti-
Although the EGS is planned and implemented by the bureau- culture activity in the state under the EGS. The expansion of
cracy, people participation was built into the scheme by requiring horticulture is doubtless a laudable strategy for the diversification
the whetting of the local blue print by the EGS Panchayat Samiti of agriculture in Maharashtra. However implementing this
Committee, which was to contain representatives of backward strategy through the EGS raises several concerns. Horticulture
classes, minorities, participants of the scheme as well as women. by being applicable only to land owners automatically excludes
However, the decisions regarding what assets to build have the poorest. Equity dictates the use of EGS funds for the poorest
largely remained in the hands of the officials of the line agencies, first, especially since other sources of funds, such as the bank
who may or may not take into account the perceived needs of finance may be available for the development of horticulture.
the participants. More recent (centrally sponsored) poverty al- It also entails use of other community resources, especially water
leviation programmes in the mould of the EGS such as the without any quid pro quo. The employment potential of horti-
Jawahar Rojgar Yojana (JRY) and the Employment Assurance culture appears, prima facie limited. Its viability in dry areas of
Scheme attempted to involve the poor in the decision-making the watershed and in the absence of storing, marketing and
process by charging the panchayats with implementation, with processing facilities also needs to be examined before substan-
mixed results. A review of these two schemes in Maharashtra tially expanding this sub-scheme under EGS. Finally, the use of
by the Planning Commission [Policy Development Initiatives EGS funds to create private assets is likely to increase inclusion
2000] revealed that though fund utilisation was much higher in errors in the scheme.
areas with active panchayats, participation remained by and large The issue of maintenance of EGS assets is closely linked to
poor due to poor attendance at meetings, lack of awareness of ownership. EGS assets are at present handed over to the local
the issues involved (though awareness of the programmes was authorities for maintenance. The result has been the uniformly
itself high), passivity of the participants, the insensitivity of the poor condition of assets – roads that are washed away in the very
panchayat leaders to the needs of the poorest and lack of first rains, percolation tanks that run dry shortly after construc-
organisational skills and staff. Research elsewhere [Corbridge tion, for example. A variety of reasons may be listed for this
et al 2003] reveals that the poorest continue to be left out of – considerable delays in handing over the assets to the zilla

Economic and Political Weekly April 24, 2004 1743


parishad, failure to allocate resources by the local bodies for the or alternative employment as a means of improvement of the
maintenance of these assets, the unwillingness of local bodies family’s economic status is available first to men while women
to take over the assets due to paucity of resources, political hold the responsibility for basic survival strategies. This is specially
interference, rivalry between revenue and technical departments, so in the case of households predominantly economically sup-
lack of proper blueprints, lack of coordination and delays in ported by women.8 Under such conditions it is not surprising that
implementation. An additional reason is that there is no clear short-term unskilled employment offered by EGS is attractive
sense of ownership – neither amongst the implementing agencies to women.
nor amongst the villagers who see their role only in its building. The following design features must help draw women to EGS:
Collective ownership of EGS assets together with the sanction – Provision of work close to the village and the advantages of
of EGS funds for maintenance may be explored, since such working alongside the family
strategies have been successful in community forest management – Provision of work not requiring special skills
elsewhere [Patnaik 2002]. – Lack of discrimination in recruitment
The questions raised above have no easy answers. While the – Parity of wages offered to men and women
answers to some are in the political domain others require careful – Provision of shelter, drinking water and especially of crèches
investigation and the application of multi-disciplinary expertise for children
and imagination. All questions are, however important as the The act also mandates the following monetary entitlements to
answers will determine the future direction and ultimately the women [GoM 2002d].
success of the EGS as a tool in the poverty alleviation arsenal. – Maternity benefit to a woman worker if she works continuously
for 75 days before her delivery: she is given 15 days leave with
EGS and Gender Concerns? wages at the rate prevailing in that particular zone. If she had been
working for more than 15 days, payment is given as one day’s wages
The EGS, as observed earlier, is a mainstream programme: that every five days and this benefit is given for maximum 150 days
is, it is not specially designed as a women specific/pro-women – If a woman undergoes tubectomy, she is entitled for 14 days
programme. However due to the large-scale participation of leave with wages; a male worker is given seven days leave with
women from the outset, the EGS has acquired the reputation of wages if he undergoes vasectomy
a women-friendly programme – 38 per cent of EGS participants – If a woman works continuously for five days in the preceding
were women in 1995-96; by 1998-99 the proportion had increased two weeks, she is entitled for two days leave with wages for
to 73 per cent, though it fell to 58 per cent the following year copper-T surgery for the purpose of family planning
[GoM 2002c]. Women’s partiality to EGS arises in large part – If a child brought to the work site suffers from accident or
due to the circumstances in which women in rural Maharashtra injury, the child is also given same ex-gratia payment as is given
find themselves and in some part to EGS features favourable to adult labourers [GoM 1978]
to women. The EGS Act has also provided for the representation of women
Of the12.7 million women working in rural areas of Maharashtra, in the district and panchayat level committees so that their voice
89 per cent are in agriculture – 41 per cent as cultivators and might be included in the planning and implementation of the
48 per cent as agricultural labour. Amongst wage workers, there scheme.
are 1,311 women for every 1,000 men. On the other hand, among Due to the large participation of women in EGS and the features
cultivators there are only 689 women for every 1,000 men. in EGS design enumerated above, a number of benefits were
Compared to men, the proportion of marginal/subsidiary workers anticipated from the scheme for women. Besides the obvious
amongst women is much higher. Given lack of education and advantages conferred by employment and income [Datar 1990]
skills, they have recourse only to unskilled work. Thus, more especially to women from low asset/assetless and female headed
than half the employed women work as casual labour. Hardly households, the EGS was expected to gradually eliminate taste
1.5 per cent works on a regular basis [GoM 2000b]. There is and statistical discrimination from the agricultural labour market
in fact a greater shift to casual labour by women in the state than [Foster and Roseweig 1992], break down social taboos concerning
in the country as a whole. Because of this, employment of women gender and caste, increase social awareness and instil confidence
fluctuates more (compared to men), between peak and lean in women [Datar 1987]. However, the EGS, as it is implemented
agricultural seasons. Their daily rate of unemployment is higher today, cannot really be considered sensitive to gender concerns
than their usual status rate – in 1999-2000, unemployment rate as it fails to address some important gender issues.
daily status for women was 6.90 per cent (the corresponding rate
for men was 6.30 per cent) while the corresponding usual status Benefit Delivery to Women
rate was 0.8 per cent, underlining the significance of under-
employment amongst women. Thus, whichever way we look at At the most basic level, EGS has not delivered on the many
it, women, clearly, depend on impermanent, insecure employ- commitments that the act has made to women. Many of its
ment. In effect then, women in rural Maharashtra have a greater provisions built-in for women’s protection, such as those per-
stake in agriculture than men but fewer rewards. taining to maternity and family planning have never reached
Alternative opportunities (other than agricultural work) within women, remaining merely on paper. We could not find a single
rural sector or outside it are denied to women because they are case of these benefits being awarded. One reason is that the
relatively immobile due to their reproductive functions and prescribed number of days a woman has to work to become
household responsibilities, their limited access to resources – eligible for the benefit is unrealistic: in the case of maternity
private or public – such as property, skills or credit and last but benefits, for example, the minimum stipulation is 75 days
not least, due to the role ascribed by society to women: studies (100 days earlier). With discontinuity in the provision of EGS
show that in terms of family strategies, options for migration employment, it is difficult for a person to work continuously for

1744 Economic and Political Weekly April 24, 2004


as long as 75 days. Second, under conditions of shifting work Finally the bulk of women in rural Maharashtra continue
sites and non-availability of records a woman has no way of to remain unskilled and therefore mainly dependent on casual
showing the stipulated days of work. Had she been given an ID labour, including that offered by EGS. Women continue to be
card, she would have proof of days worked. As this system has burdened by arduous and health threatening tasks under
been discontinued, it has resulted in a serious loss to the woman EGS as in agriculture. Traditional sexual division of labour
worker. The days of work in reality will exceed the required continues to be perpetuated on EGS sites, with women being
condition if we count not just EGS work but also her work in given ‘unskilled’ work. Women say there are many tasks at
agriculture in general. Finally lack of awareness regarding their present given to men like using machinery, which can be done
rights and entitlements has also prevented women from claiming by women. In this connection, the one feature that could have
the mandated benefits. It must be noted here that awareness bestowed significant benefits to women is the training and skill
amongst women is confined to awareness of their right to demand upgradation that the act hints at. However, no effort has been
work under EGS. Awareness regarding their rights or entitle- made in the 30 years that the scheme has been in existence to
ments under the scheme or awareness/knowledge regarding devise ways to impart skill training to EGS participants- men
measurement of work and calculation of wages is practically non- or women.
existent. Women on EGS sites declared that they depend upon Several reasons may be postulated for the lack of gender
their men folk to take care of these aspects. sensitivity
Shelters and crèches – theoretically facilities provided particu- – Gender discrimination entrenched in society can be expected
larly for women – remain primitive and apologies for the real to inform EGS administrators – both policy-makers and
thing. Moreover, given the inferior status of women in society, implementers – and prevent participants in general and women
men claim priority to the use of shelters [Chari 2003]. No toilets in particular from using opportunities embedded in EGS to restore
can be detected on/near EGS sites. Officials say they cannot gender equity.
provide these, as work sites are temporary. There is total lack – Absence of attempts by the administration to take stock of the
of privacy for women for breast feeding. reasons behind the large participation of women in the scheme
Though mandated by the act, it is not certain whether, in or to measure the impact of the scheme on women if not on gender
practice, women get equal wages for equal work under EGS. relations. Except in terms of number of person-days9 contributed
Methods of measuring work and payment do not ensure equity by them, women do not figure in official EGS data and even
because the method of recording employment and wages under these figures do not appear credible. The many gaps in data,
EGS does not allow precise determination of the quantity or particularly gender data, ultimately thwart attempts by research-
duration of women’s work. Work on EGS sites, as already ers to assess the impact of the scheme on women.
explained, is done by a group of both men and women called – Absence of any organised attempt by the state to use the
a ‘gat’. Work completed by each gat is measured according to convergence of women on EGS sites to deliver information and
procedures laid down for this purpose and is recorded correspond- services such as literacy and health.
ing to the gat. This figure is then multiplied by the piece rate – Finally, absence of mobilisation and conscientisation of women
applicable and thus the wage due to each gat is calculated. At on site. Though there was some local mobilisation of EGS
the time of payment the wage due to each gat is then presumably participants – but not particularly of women except in small
divided in the ratio of the person-days contributed by each pockets – in the 1970s and some attempt at consolidating the
member of the gat. The aggregate payment due to the gat is usually action at state level under the Maharashtra Rajya Shetmajoor and
handed over to the leader of the gat, usually a male, who then Employment Guarantee Scheme Workers Samanvya Samiti in
distributes it amongst its members. Thus it is not possible to the early 1980s, mobilisation efforts petered out in the late 1980s
calculate wages earned by men or women with precision. A for various reasons.
woman member of a gat is, in practice, likely to get less in her
hands than a male member for the same quantity of work, given Making EGS Women Friendly
the gender bias in society. Official EGS records do not reflect
this reality – they simply assume that men and women get equal Making the EGS more relevant to women within the existing
wages. Lack of wage parity on the ground, is perhaps, one of framework may require action on many fronts
the reasons why the anticipated spillover effects in terms of (i) To begin with women should be made aware of how EGS
general equalisation of wages for men and women in agriculture works and informed of their rights and entitlements. Women
have not materialised. Agriculture in Maharashtra as elsewhere already have representation in panchayat. With some training,
continues to pay differential wages to men and women: a woman this should give opportunities to women members and women
engaged in casual work earns Rs 25.28 per day compared to the sarpanches to take an active part in articulating their needs of
corresponding male wage of Rs 38.06. Though the law stipulates work at village level, participate in the (EGS) budget process
equal pay for equal work, it is always possible to claim women’s at the local level as well as monitor work execution. They could
work is different and less valuable. also be trained to be part of vigilance committees. Such practices
No doubt, employment and income opportunities under the have been successful for instance in monitoring PDS.
EGS represent important economic gains for women. However, (ii) Reasons why the administration has been unable to award
research has established that employment and income does not any of the mandated entitlements to women have to be examined
automatically lead to increased access to money or other resources and appropriate modifications made.
for women. Even if we assume that women do get equitable (iii) Enriching their private capabilities by according skills/train-
wages, these may have to be handed over to men as most women ing to women in agriculture and related activities. Exploration
on EGS sites confirmed. Moreover, a large part of their earnings and research in identifying marketable and location-specific
must necessarily go towards food for the family. skills for women is required.

Economic and Political Weekly April 24, 2004 1745


(iv) Creating community asset under EGS that answer women’s female person-days to total person-days generated is provided
needs and devising ways to award the ownership of community – but is hardly credible: given the huge inter-district differences
assets created under EGS to women’s groups. There are many of the condition of women it is difficult to accept the uniformity
existing models available where wasteland development is re- demonstrated by the data. (Table 5) Wage data as already dis-
warded by women’s collective ownership of land reclaimed or cussed is based on notional equality of men and women.
ownership of trees if they develop nurseries. There is great scope On assets, data is available on expenditure, number of projects
for this in social forestry and watershed development. In cases sanctioned, number of projects completed since the commence-
of joint private land ownership, mentioned in some sections of ment of the scheme, the annual categorywise expenditure since
EGS work, it is possible to build in women’s collective ownership 1991. Data on the status of assets (many assets are temporary
(v) Other existing government programmes such as health, lit- structures) or the different types of assets created are absent. Even
eracy, education, child care, etc, could take advantage of the the limited data available on assets is of little use due to the
presence of large number of women on EGS sites to focus these practice of clubbing dissimilar categories; data on horticulture,
services on women. What is needed is to create a synergy of Jawahar wells and Shram Shaktidware Gram Vikas is aggregated,
services where EGS sites provide an ideal site for health, literacy for example in spite of the fact that the last no longer exists.
and awareness programmes. EGS sites also offer opportunities Decentralised planning, monitoring and assessment are impos-
for Social Action. sible without proper comprehensive information management.
(vi) Migrant women EGS workers face special problems that need Essential information regarding participants, particularly women
special attention. not available:
(vii) At present EGS perpetuates existing social and gender (1) Background data on participating households
inequalities. The costs and benefits of such practices to different – Size of the household
sections must be highlighted through research and investigation. – Its composition in terms of gender and age
(viii) There has to be a clearer perception among officials at lower – The marital status, number of children of the female
levels on what is meant by gender sensitivity – understanding members of the household
how programmes affect women; what their disadvantages are; Table 5: Districtwise Female Person-days Generated under
traditional conceptions on gender roles and how they generate EGS in Maharashtra, 1995-96 to 1999-2000
unequal burdens between men and women, unequal entitlements Sl District/Division/State Percentage of Female Person-days
and lower participation in public sphere and how EGS should No to Total Person-days
guard against perpetuating these. 1995-96 1996-97 1997-98 1998-99 1999-
2000
(ix) Social Action Groups can play a valuable role in mobilisation (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
and of women. This used to be so in the past and could be revived.
Women’s collective strength could be encouraged to bring about 1 Thane 57.37 58.95 49.01 72.96 60.01
2 Raigad 0.00 59.06 48.97 73.01 59.99
changes in gender relations. EGS has been instrumental in bringing 3 Ratnagiri 42.44 59.02 49.00 73.00 60.00
together large numbers of women at work sites – an experience 4 Sindhudurg 38.78 58.96 48.98 73.00 60.03
that has been positive for women. In areas where social action Konkan division 41.10 58.99 49.00 73.00 60.00
5 Nashik 29.49 58.99 49.00 73.00 60.01
groups have played a dominant role as in Jawhar, illiterate tribal 6 Dhule 12.47 58.97 49.01 73.01 60.05
women are very assertive and demand work. 7 Nandurbar - - – - 59.99
(x) Finally, EGS would contribute much to the cause of women 8 Jalgaon 7.24 58.99 49.00 73.00 59.99
9 Ahmadnagar 29.00 59.01 48.99 73.01 59.99
by simply fulfilling its original agenda: soil and water conser- Nasik division 26.85 59.00 49.00 73.00 60.00
vation, conservation of forests and other natural resources which 10 Pune 53.35 59.00 48.99 72.97 59.98
11 Satara 47.13 59.02 49.01 72.98 60.00
feed into women’s special requirement of water, fodder, fuel 12 Sangli 38.03 59.01 49.01 73.02 60.00
besides enhancing productivity in agriculture. 13 Solapur 26.04 59.00 48.99 73.01 60.02
In conclusion, a few observations on the state of official EGS 14 Kolhapur 51.84 58.98 49.02 72.95 59.98
Pune division 35.80 59.00 49.00 72.99 64.12
data system: the data collection has a narrow focus: to enable 15 Aurangabad 52.88 58.99 49.01 72.99 59.99
assessment of the wage bill and the cost of the scheme to the 16 Jalna 59.75 59.00 48.99 73.00 60.00
government and to present employment generation under the 17 Parbhani 53.66 59.02 48.99 73.02 60.03
18 Hingoli - - - - 59.91
scheme to the assembly. The Planning Department collects and 19 Bid 56.59 59.00 49.01 73.00 30.30
presents data on employment generated and assets created. Data 20 Nanded 40.40 58.99 48.99 73.00 60.01
on employment is measured in terms of male and female person- 21 Osmanabad 48.78 58.99 49.00 72.99 60.00
22 Latur 36.85 59.05 49.00 72.99 60.00
days generated on EGS sites at the district, division and state Aurangabad division 49.74 59.00 49.00 73.00 52.10
level, the attendance on the last day of the month, and the annual 23 Buldana 28.29 59.00 49.02 73.00 59.99
maximum, minimum and average attendance on site for the state. 24 Akola 18.20 59.03 48.97 73.03 59.97
25 Washim - - - - 60.08
While person-days generated gives a good idea of EGS activity 26 Amravati 28.30 58.99 49.00 73.00 60.01
over the years and across districts, it does not allow comparison 27 Yavatmal 6.57 58.99 48.99 72.99 60.00
with labour data available either from the Census or the National Amravati division 20.52 59.00 49.00 73.00 60.00
28 Wardha 13.43 59.09 49.00 72.99 60.02
Sample Survey in the absence of statistics on average number 29 Nagpur 27.19 59.00 48.99 73.01 59.98
of days for which employment is available on the scheme. Also 30 Bhandara 40.28 59.01 48.99 73.00 60.00
assessment of impact is not possible using this data because the 31 Gondia - - - - 59.99
32 Chandrapur 29.17 58.97 49.00 73.00 59.99
intra district variations are lost in aggregation. This is a serious 33 Gadchiroli 31.19 59.01 49.02 72.99 60.00
limitation considering that under EGS the focus is or ought to Nagpur Division 33.17 59.00 49.00 73.00 60.00
State Total 37.94 53.54 49.00 73.00 57.89
be on localised employment provision. Data on gender is not
only grossly inadequate – only the districtwise percentage of Source: Planning Department (EGS), Government of Maharashtra, Mumbai

1746 Economic and Political Weekly April 24, 2004


– The economic status of the household, income, for example Chari Anurekha (2003) (unpublished): ‘Is EGS Gender Sensitive?’, Paper
– Number of earners – male and female, their employment presented at a Workshop on Employment Guarantee Scheme, University
status (employed or unemployed/main or marginal workers/ of Pune, April 3 and 4.
Corbridge, Stuart, Glyn Williams, Manoj Srivatsava and Rene Veron (2003):
cultivator or labourer, for example), occupation (agriculture,
‘Making Social Science Matter Part I: How the Local State Works in
allied activity or other) Rural Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal', and Part II: 'How the Rural
– Land ownership in terms of size (small farmer/marginal Poor See the State in Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal’, Economic
or landless) as well as gender and Political Weekly, July 14.
– History of migration in the household Datar, Chaya (1987): Revaluation of Employment Guarantee Scheme,
(2) Details of employment on EGS Maharashtra, Institute of Social Studies Trust, New Delhi.
– Data on male and female workers – (1990): Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Scheme, Tata Institute of
Social Sciences, Mumbai.
– The duration of employment on EGS sites (data is available
Dev, Mahendra (1996): ‘Food Security: PDS and EGS – A Tale of Two
only in terms of person-days) Cities’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol 31, No 27, July 6.
– Division of labour between men and women Foster, A D and M R Roseweig (1992): ‘Information Flows and Discrimination
– The capacity to absorb women of various projects under- in Labour Market of Rural Areas in Developing Countries’, Proceedings
taken, horticulture for example, and finally, of the World Bank Annual Conference on Development Economics,
– Gender disaggregated wage data World Bank, Washington, DC.
Development of data records needs to focus on the tahsil/block GoM (1978): EGS Act (1977), Maharashtra Act No XX of 1978, Mumbai.
level. Even collection and dissemination of village level data – (1987): Avarshanpravankshetra Punervilokan Samiticha Ahwal, Mumbai.
– (2002a): Economic Survey of Maharashtra, 2001-2002, Directorate of
should not pose difficulties with computerisation. This is essen- Economics and Statistics, Planning Department, Mumbai.
tial not only for integrated local planning and feed back but also – (2002b): Human Development Report, Maharashtra, Government of
in the interest of transparency. EPW Maharashtra, Mumbai.
– (2002c): ‘Internal Paper, EGS-9’, Planning Department, Maharashtra, June.
Address for correspondence: – (2002d): ‘Internal Paper, EGS-9’, Planning Department, Maharashtra,
kraj@vsnl.com November.
arunakanchi@hotmail.com – (not dated): Census of Rural BPL Households, 1997-98, Department of
Rural Development and Water Conservation, Maharashtra.
Gulati, A and A Sharma (1997): ‘Freeing Trade in Agriculture: Implications
Notes for Resource Use Efficiency and Cropping Pattern Changes’, Economic
and Political Weekly, December 27.
1 The daily status unemployment rates have always been much higher than Nayyar, D and A Sen (1994): ‘International Trade and the Agricultural Sector
the corresponding usual status rates indicating the pervasiveness of in India’, Economic and Political Weekly, May 14.
underemployment rather than chronic unemployment. See National Sample Patnaik, Manoj (2002): ‘Community Forest Management’ in Mohan Hiralal
Survey, Reports of the 43rd, 50th and 55th Rounds. In 1999-2000 the Hirabai (ed), Orissa in Village Forest – Gateway to Sustainable and
daily status male and female unemployment rates were respectively, 6.3
Participatory Community Forest Management, Vrikshamitra,
and 6.9. The corresponding usual status rates were 0.8 and 0.2.
Chandrapur/Gadchiroli.
2 The Census of Rural BPL Households 1997-98 (GoM not dated), estimates
it at 35 per cent of the population. Policy Development Initiatives (2000): ‘Study on Poverty Alleviation Schemes
3 A vast spread of literature on the desirable and undesirable effects of in Maharashtra’ (Submitted to Planning Commission, Government of
globalisation/trade liberalisation on agriculture particularly on small India) web pages.
farmers is available. For a discussion of the Indian context see for Ramachandran, Nira (2003): ‘Food for Work’, The Times of India, July 6.
example, Srinivasan P K and Shika Jha (not dated), Shiva (1998), Gulati Scandizzo, Pascale, Raghav Gaiha and Katsushi Imai (2003): ‘Option Values,
and Sharma (1997), Nayyar and Sen (1994). Switches and Wages – An Analysis of the Employment Guarantee
4 The state’s revenue expenditure on agriculture, which was 18.5 per cent Scheme in India’, Discussion Paper Series No 164, Department of
of the total revenue expenditure in 1970-71 stands today at 4 per cent. Economics, University of Oxford, June.
Rural development has suffered a similar fate. Shiva, Vandana and T Crompton (1998): ‘Monopoly and Monoculture:
5 The importance of the creation of rural infrastructure for agricultural Trends in Indian Seed Industry’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol 26.
growth finds a sure place in the recommendations of all commissions Shiva, Vandana (2002): ‘Real Reasons for Hunger’, The Guardian, June 23.
and research papers. Srinivasan, P K and Shika Jha (not dated): ‘Globalisation and Public
6 Implicit in EGS, as it is now implemented, is the greater weight given Agricultural Research in India’, web pages.
to short-term employment provision. Sundaram and Tendulkar (2003): ‘Poverty in India in the 1990s: An analysis
7 For a lengthy discussion of the issue of the utilisation of EGS Fund, of Changes in Fifteen Major States’, Economic and Political Weekly,
see the Report of the Eighth EGS State Committee [GoM 2002f]. Vol XXXVIII, No 14, April 5.
8 Official data records headship of households in terms of who is declared
so by the household. On this basis, out of 10,778,100 households
9,28,200 households are estimated to be female-headed. However,
if the number of households that are predominantly economically
EPW Index
supported by women are counted then the proportion comes nearer
30 per cent. These households face greater vulnerability to economic A comprehensive subject and author index to
shocks [UNDP 2002].
9 Even these estimates are not precise because they are measured in person-
EPW for January-June 2003 and January-June
days, which are most likely approximated from last day of the month and July-December 2002 is now available. Each
figures.
half-yearly edition of the index is priced Rs 25
References and may be ordered from Circulation Manager,
Bhalla and Hazel (2003): ‘Rural Employment and Poverty Strategies to
Economic and Political Weekly, Hitkari House,
Eliminate Rural Poverty within a Generation’, Economic and Political 284 Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Mumbai-400001.
Weekly, Vol 38, No 33, August 16.

Economic and Political Weekly April 24, 2004 1747