14949 - PERSPECTIVE The NREGA, the Maoists and the...

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PERSPECTIVE July 10, 2010 vol xlv no 28 EPW Economic & Political Weekly 42 The NREGA, the Maoists and the Developmental Woes of the Indian State Kaustav Banerjee, Partha Saha Kaustav Banerjee (kaustav.jnu@gmail.com) is associated with the Council for Social Development, New Delhi and Partha Saha (kuttusbnc@yahoo.com) with the Institute for Applied Manpower Research, New Delhi. The United Progressive Alliance government’s much touted F agship programme under the National Rural Employment Act is aimed at countering some of the developmental woes of the Indian state in the backward regions. The Maoists are active in some of the most backward areas and the government has been accusing them of stalling development. Hence, the current solution as operationalised by the government is to F ush out the anti-developmentalists by force and then proceed with development. We examine these issues through a case study of the NREGA in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Orissa. The districts chosen were from the ± rst 200 where the NREGA has been implemented from 2006 onwards and are also under the inF uence of the Maoists. 1 Backwardness, Rural Employment Guarantee and Naxals T he initial 200 districts chosen for implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act ( NREGA ) were the most backward districts of this country. In administrative lexicon, backward districts or remote/underdevel- oped areas are identi± ed on the basis of a set of criteria – low agricultural producti- vity, high incidence of poverty, high concentration of scheduled castes/tribes, areas which suffer from isolation in demo- graphic terms, etc. This identi± cation process then leads to planning for devel- opment of these backward areas. 1 The underdevelopment and neglect of these backward areas are at times reminiscent of the workings of the East India Company till 1858 2 – “The (East India) Company which ruled India until 1858 did not make one spring accessible, did not sink a single well, nor build a bridge for the bene± t of the Indians”. It was also evident from the socio-economic survey that certain areas still continue to be severely underdevel- oped in India, where the inadequacy of basic infrastructure and aggregate lack of development has combined with recent increases in food and employment insecu- rity to create conditions of rural distress that may be unprecedented. ²urther evi- dence of rural distress was found in the poor quality of housing and the lack of basic material possessions. The current developmental indicators 3 show very clearly that it is the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Orissa that lag behind on every indicator. In terms of social groups we could easily state that dalits, adivasis, nearly all backward castes and Muslims are the most marginalised; women within these groups are the most discriminated. Some of these developmental woes were supposed to be addressed by the much touted government F agship pro- gramme, the NREGA . Three years since the inception of the programme, the results in these areas leave much to be desired. Ad-
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14949 - PERSPECTIVE The NREGA, the Maoists and the...

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