Strengthening Capacity Building for Local Functionaries: A Case of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in South Indian State of Andhra Pradesh

Abstract: 
India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) which is renamed as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (from 2010) is considered as one of the most creative initiatives of post Independent India in the field of social policy. The most novel and remarkable feature of MGNREGS are i) it is legally binding response by the State to ensure Right to Work to the poor and unemployed persons (up to 100 days of employment for every household in a year) ii) provision for unemployment allowance to be paid to the workers in case the State is unable to provide the guaranteed days of work. The present paper has evaluated a total 793 respondents that include 180 Elected Representatives, 48 Block Development Officials, 193 grassroots level field implementers and 231 worker participants etc. on the efficacy of local capacity building imparted by Andhra Pradesh State Institute of Rural Development (An Apex State Level Training Institute for Rural Development Programmes) to improve the efficiency of NRGS implementation. As a part of this exercise, the key issues the study looked at are: programme design, content, teaching methods (pedagogy issues), delivery of information on the subject; to analyse the perceptions of the BDOs, Assistant Project Officers and Technical Assistants involved in NREGS on the utility of the training programmes in improving their capabilities; iii) to elicit the perceptions of NREGS participants on the performance of field functionaries; to examine the opinion of the elected representatives on the relevance of the training programmes and lastly to identify the key gaps in capacity building programmes and recommend future policy pointers to the Government. The study was done in three districts representing three development zones in the state covering 45 village panchayats (local councils).
Main Article: 

Introduction

India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), renamed as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) from 2010 onwards, is considered as one of the most creative initiatives of social policy. The most novel and remarkable features of the MNREGS are: i) a legally binding response by the state to ensure right to work for the poor and unemployed persons; ii) a development initiative, chipping in with crucial public investments for creation of durable assets; iii) emphasis on water conservation, drought and flood proofing underscoring water security for rural transformation; iv) complete ban on the use of contractors and labor displacing-machinery in executing the works, v) payment of statutory minimum wages and provides legal entitlements to labor on working hours, rest, drinking water, medical aid and crèche facilities vi) provision for unemployment allowance to be paid to the workers in case the state is unable to provide the guaranteed days of work i.e., 100 days employment for every household in a year; vii) a heavy thrust on the people’s participation, decentralized process of decision making planning and implementation and a very minimal role for state bureaucracy; viii) ensure transparency of implementation and accountability of implementers; ix) preparation of annual report on the implementation of the program and be made available for public scrutiny; x) monitoring of the works by Gram Sabhas (Village Assembly) by way of social audit; xi) evaluation of the assets created under the program by technically qualified personnel; xii) strategic use of surplus labor for creation of assets for expanding labor absorption capacity; xiii) undertake the programs benefiting more the SCs, STs and women etc.

The MNREGA is aimed for poverty eradication, prevention of starvation, reducing distressed migration of the poor and empowerment of the poor. This Act also has the potential to direct strategic use of surplus labor for promoting sustainable development and for mainstreaming the poor in the economy.

The Governance of MNREGA at the Grassroots Level

The studies also point out that the quality of human resources deployed so far is completely inadequate for shouldering the complex and manifold responsibilities of MNREGA implementation. A bureaucracy that is both unmotivated and corrupt and over- burdened with many existing responsibilities can hardly be expected to muster the imagination and energy required by MNREGA. This is further confirmed by the fact that there is a wide gap between promise and performance of NREGS in the country. The reports on the progress of the NREGS reveals that, of the 2.10 crore households who were employed under NREGA during its first year, only 0.22 crore received the full 100 days promised under the Act.

The average employment per household was 43 days in 2006-07 and 35 days in 2007-08 (MORD 2008). There could be several reasons for this poor performance, but the most important reason is the weak governance of the program at the grassroots level. The studies point out that there is no way NREGA can realize its full potential if implemented within the same moribund structure of governance that has characterized rural India since independence (Ambasta et al. 2008). In this context, it is appropriate to mention the findings of the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG). According to the report:

“Non-appointment of full-time dedicated program officer (PO), who is pivotal to the successful implementation of NREGA, and giving the additional charge of PO to BDOS/MPDOs, who were responsible to other developmental schemes at the block level, strikes at the root of effective implementation of NREGA. In the absence of dedicated technical (human) resources, the administrative and technical scrutiny and approval of works was, thus, routed through the normal departmental channels burdened with the existing responsibilities. This was further compounded by the failure to specify time frames for processing and approval of proposals at different levels. This was reflected in the poor progress in taking up works’. (pp. 16-17)

The CAG report also summarizes significant deficiencies and their impact on NREGA implementation as follows:

“The main deficiency was the lack of adequate and technical manpower at the block and GP levels. The lack of manpower adversely affected the preparation of plans, security, approval, monitoring and measurement of works, and maintenance of the stipulated records at the block and the GP level. Besides affecting the implementation of the scheme and the provision of employment, this also impacted adversely on transparency and made it difficult to verify the provision of the legal guarantee of 100 days of employment on demand. Planning was inadequate and delayed, which resulted in poor progress of works. Systems of financial managements for financial management and tracking were deficient, with numerous instances of diversion/misutilization, and delay in transfer of state share. Monthly squaring of accounts at different levels to maintain financial accountability and transparency was also not being done. Maintenance of records at the block and GP levels was extremely poor, and the status of monitoring, evaluation and social audit was also not up to the mark” (p.95).

The above observations indicate that both the number and quality of human resources deployed so far are inadequate for shouldering the complex and manifold responsibilities of NREGA implementation. The governments have failed to recognize the enormous diversity of tasks involved and the skills required for executing the scheme with speed and quality.

Therefore, NREGA needs an appropriate human resource support structure for it to truly deliver on its potential and also continuously upgrade the capacities of functionaries working at the grass-roots level.

Relevance of Capacity Building of NREGS Functionaries

The NREGS is in operation for four years in India, and Andhra Pradesh. The studies on NREGS both concurrent evaluation and case studies have highlighted the political and administrative realities of the scheme. They identified: i) evolving integrated administrative machinery for implementing the scheme; ii) supervision of the works by the multiple departments of irrigation, agriculture, and forest, District Water Management Agency (DWMA), PRI officials; iii) issue of many government orders and guidelines from time to time; iv) preparation of the manpower budget, on both the supply and demand sides; v) preparation of a list or inventory of projects including its technical feasibility and economic viability; vi) mapping of the works-village, block and district-wise and prioritizing of works; vii) measurement of works, and payment of wages on Schedule of Rates (SOR); viii) managing political pressures; ix) ensure transparency and accountability and public vigilance; x) generation of social and productive assets; xi) recognize employment as a universal legal right of the poor; xii) promote development of poor and backward regions; xiii) ecological generation and infrastructure development, both of which can promote economic growth; etc. collectively contribute for the effectiveness of the NREGS.

The functionaries (both non-officials and officials) who are involved in the planning and implementation of the schemes, particularly at the grass-roots level need to be equipped with the requisite knowledge on the abovementioned items and other issues related to the scheme.

Therefore, the training programs organized by AMR-Andhra Pradesh Academy of Rural Development (AMR-APARD), Hyderabad, is expected to enhance the capacity building of the functionaries in terms of individual ability to absorb, modify and apply skills and knowledge to realize the goals of the NREGA, in Andhra Pradesh.

Recent Trends in Training for Development Functionaries

National Capacity Building Framework

The Seventh Round Table of State Ministers of Panchayati Raj, held at Jaipur in December 2004, evolved a national framework for capacity building of elected representatives, officials and other stakeholders for effective implementation of various rural development programs and also the provisions of Part IX of the constitution. The main objectives of the National Capacity Building Framework (NCDF) are to: i) enable the Panchayat-elected representatives to upgrade their knowledge and skills to better perform their responsibilities; ii) orient key officials associated with the PRIs functions and developmental programs; iii) improve the Gram Sabha functioning; iv) sensitize the media, political parties, civil society organizations and citizens on the effective functioning of PRIs and developmental programs in the rural areas.

Basic Principles Underlying the Framework

The Framework is grounded on the following basic principles:

a.First, implementation of the Framework is an all round continuous and sustained process aimed at long-term transformation and development.

b.Second, the focus of training under the Framework is not upon information alone, but on inter-learning between trainers and participants.

c.Third, training cannot provide ready-made answers to all problems, but should provide space and time for trainees to reflect on and analyze their situation and seek solutions to their problems.

d.Fourth, mutual learning, assimilation and retention happens best in a multi-modal and non-hierarchical training environment.

e.Fifth, all participants bring with them well-honed knowledge which must be respected. SCs, STs, and women should be given special attention in training.

f.Sixth, training programs must ensure participation of all members-not just a talkative and domineering few

g.Seventh, the training team should be objective and non-judgmental in outlook, and function as facilitators, friends and counselors, who can evoke and stimulate thinking among trainees.

h.Eighth, the processes and logistics of the framework must be convenient and relevant to the ground reality of elected representatives.

i.Ninth, the program must aim at maximum initial coverage within a limited period of time, so that all stakeholders can quickly settle down to playing their roles and commence their work.

j.Tenth, training for PESA areas should be designed in keeping with the cultural traditions and special needs of the tribal people.

k.Eleventh, the framework has to constantly develop and evolve on the basis of regular impact assessment.

Context

The AMR-APARD, the apex training institute in AP, has been offering training programs to enhance capacity building of the officials and non-officials engaged in rural development programs. The APARD, during the last three years, organized a series of training programs on NREGS to the officials, with a view to enhance their efficacy in planning and implementation of the program. Experience with the training programs on NREGS organized by APARD, is three years, and it is time to evaluate the relevance of the training program in realizing the goals of NREGS.

Key Objectives

The main objective is to study the relevance of training programs on NREGS conducted by APARD, during 2006-09, to the officials and non-officials.

a.To study the program design, content, teaching methods, delivery of information on the subject;

b.To analyze the opinions of Block Development Officers (BDO)/MPO(MPDO), APO, TA on the utility of the training in improving their abilities to plan and implement the NREGS and other rural developmental programs;

c.To study the training programs given by MPO/APO/TA to the field functionaries (Field Assistants, Mates ) on NREGS, and its impact on the efficacy of the latter in discharging their duties;

d.To elicit the opinion of the NREGS participants, wage seekers on the performance of field functionaries (TA/FA/Mates) in the implementation of the programs;

e.To examine the opinion of the non-officials on the relevance of training programs, and also on the overall performance of MG NREGS functionaries;

f.To identify the key gaps in training programs and thrust of training to be offered by APARD in their future endeavors;

Research Methodology

The following districts, mandals, villages and respondents have been selected using multi-sampling method for the purpose of evaluation of training given by APARD to APDs, MPDOs / POs, APOs , Technical Assistants, Field Assistants and Mates . The three districts, one each from the region, three Revenue Divisions from each district and one mandal in each revenue division have been selected, giving weightage to the region, revenue divisions and better performance and low performance (i.e. average man-days of employment generated)

 

Sampling Frame

Visakhapatnam, Anantapur and Nalgonda Districts in Andhra Pradesh State of South India

Number of Respondents

 

Officials

Respondents Levels  
District Mandal Cluster 3 Mandals 15 Villages GT
Additional PD (DWAMA) 2 - - 2 2
Assistant PD - 4 - - 5
MPDO / PO - - 9 - 9
APO - - 9 - 9
Mandal Officials TA - - 9 - 32
FA - - 9 45 48
Elected Representatives   - - 9 45 180
PR Officials Secretary - - - 45 33
Beneficiaries Mates - - 9 45 193
General Labour - - 9 45 231
FGD Common - - 36 36 36
Only Women - - 9 15 15
Total         793

 

 

Further, from each selected mandal, five villages (Five Field Assistants), and from each village four mates are selected. The information is also collected from 45 Gram Sarpanchas, 36 Panchayat Secretaries and beneficiaries and other stakeholders. In all, three districts, nine revenue divisions, nine mandals and 45 villages and around 793 respondents are selected.

Findings and Discussion

The Functionaries’ (Respondents) Perception

Training for administrator/functionary is widely recognized as intervention leading to enhanced knowledge, proper skills and changed attitudes. It is believed that a new configuration of knowledge, skills and attitudes will provide the needed stimulus to initiate impulses of change in the administrative apparatus in general, and administrators in particular. To enlarge the concept in a more practical sense, it can be argued that training should lead to improved efficiency, productivity and administrative performance. This operational profile of training is the input expected from trainers and training institutions as far as training of field level administrators is concerned. Training cannot be for the sake of training, to legitimize itself, it has to relate to the performance aspect in administration. (Saxena, AP, 1983). In this context, the assessment of the opinion of the NREGS field level administrators (District, Division, Mandal and Village level) on APARD Training Programs would assume considerable importance.

This chapter seeks to examine the opinion of the recipients (Project Director, DWMA, Additional Project Director, Mandal Program Officer, Assistant Project Officer, Technical Assistants) of the training Program on NREGS at APARD, Hyderabad, during 2006-09, on the impact of the training in improving their efficiency in the three districts, which are under study. The chapter is divided into four sections. The socio-economic background of respondents/recipients of the training is presented in Section I. The second section deals with the opinion of the respondents on the training inputs - objectives, content, methods of training, etc. and its impact on their functioning. The opinion of the respondents on the implementation of NREGS and its impact on the living conditions of the poor is also analyzed in the third section. The last section is devoted to the presentation of the summary of the chapter.

The socio-economic background of the respondents like age, education, caste, religion, experience, background of the parents etc, would influence their knowledge, skills, attitudes, efficiency in discharging the responsibilities-be it social welfare programs or NREGS. Here, an attempt is made to examine the socio-economic background of the respondents to find out who they are and their distribution.

An examination of the distribution of respondents (position and district-wise) reveals that more than half of them (56.1%) are technical assistants, who mostly spend their time in the field, guide and monitor the NREGP, and also deal with the target group and stakeholders of the program. The effectiveness of NREGS, to a large extent, depends on the knowledge, skills and commitment of the technical assistants. They act like catalyst between the higher level officials and lower level functionary i.e., Field Assistants and Mates. The Mandal-level administrators (MPO and APO), who are in-charge of planning and coordination of the program, account for nearly one-third (32%) of the total respondents. The district/cluster level administrators/officers i.e., PD/APD/, who are in-charge of district/cluster level planning and implementation of the program, and also organize training programs to the field level functionaries, account for 12.3 percent of the total respondents. (Table No: 1).

 

 

Table 1: Distribution of Respondents (Category and District-wise)

 

Position

District  

Total

Anantapur Nalgonda Visakapatnam Total
PD/APD/APD 2 (28.6) 1 (14.3) 4 (57.1) 7 (100.0) (12.3)
PO 4 (40.0) 3 (30.0) 3 (30.0) 10 (100.0) (17.5)
APO 2 (25.0) 3 (37.5) 3 (37.5) 8 (100.0) (14.0)
T As 13 (40.6) 11 (34.4) 8 (25.0) 32 (100.0) (56.1)
Total 21 (36.8) 18 (31.6) 18 (31.6) 57 (100.0) (100.0)

*.The figures in parenthesis indicate row percentage

 

The gender-wise distribution of the respondents unfolds that more than three-fourths (77%) of them are males, while the remaining, a little over one fifth of them (23%), are females. The position-wise distribution reveals that the representation of the male members is higher in all the categories of employees, compared to the females, except for the program officer category. The representation of females is higher in the categories of Technical Assistants and Program Officers. (Table No: 2).

 

 

 

 

Table 2: Gender wise distribution of Respondents (Category and District-wise)

 

Position

 

District  

Total

Ananantapur Nalgonda Visakapatanam
Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Total
PD/APD 2 (28.5) 0 (0.0) 1 (14.2) 0 (0.0) 4 (57.1) 0 (0.0) 7 (100.0) 0 (0.0) 7 (100)
PO 3 (30.0) 1 (10.0) 0 (0.0) 3 (30.0) 2 (20.0) 1 (10.0) 5 (50.0) 5 (50.0) 10 (100)
APO 2 (25.0) 0 (0.0) 2 (25.0) 1 (12.5) 2 (25.0) 1 (12.5) 6 (75.0) 2 (25.0) 8 (100)
TA 10 (31.2) 3 (9.3) 9 (28.1) 2 (6.2) 7 (21.8) 1 (3.2) 26 (81.2) 6 (19.8) 32 (100)
Total 17 (29.8) 4 (7.0) 12 (21.0) 6 (10.0) 15 (26.3) 3 (5.2) 44 (77.1) 13 (22.9) 57 (100)

*.The figures in parenthesis indicate row percentage

 

 

 

The analysis unfolds that the male members continue to occupy the important administrative positions, irrespective of the district and category of the official positions. The decision-making at the district/mandal level is in the hands of the male members. However, considerable percentage of MPOs and Technical Assistants are women. Therefore, it is important to mention here that the sponsoring organizations i.e., government/department need to give priority to the female administrators and special incentives like increments, priority in promotion, etc, may be given to them This would also enable the female administrators to pay adequate attention to the problems of women beneficiaries, who are more than half of the total beneficiaries under NREGP, and implement the program more effectively.

The educational levels of the respondents are presented in Table 4.6, which shows that nearly three-fourths (61.5%) are highly qualified (i.e., post graduates (47.4%), professional degrees (8.8%) and Master of Philosophy (5.3%). This situation prevails across all the categories of employees. However, more middle level officers i.e., MPO and APOs, are highly qualified compared to the district level and lower level officials (TA). Further, the analysis reveals that about 29.8 per cent and 8.8 per cent of the respondents have completed graduation and intermediate education respectively (Table No: 3).

 

 

 

Table 3: Educational Status of Respondents of three districts

 

Position

Education  

Total

Inter Graduate Post graduate Profession M.Phil
APD 0 (0.0) 2 (28.6) 2 (28.6) 2 (28.6) 1 (14.3) 7 (100)
PO 1 (10.0) 2 (20.0) 6 (60.0) 1 (10.0) 0 (0.0) 10 (100)
APO 0 (0.0) 2 (25.0) 5 (62.5) 0 (0.0) 1 (12.5) 8 (100)
T As 4 (12.5) 11 (34.4) 14 (43.8) 2 (6.3) 1 (3.1) 32 (100)
Total 5 (8.8) 17 (29.8) 27 (47.4) 5 (8.8) 3 (5.3) 57 (100)

*.The figures in parenthesis indicate row percentage

 

 

Thus, the educational level of the respondents is very conducive, and they would absorb the training contents, methods and any other relevant information relating to NREGP more easily, and, in turn, translate them into reality.

 

Training Inputs: Perception of Respondents

The stream of training inputs covers a wide range of interventions/repertoire to modify a participant’s profile in terms of the more common attributes of knowledge, skills and attitudes. The training institutes and the trainers need to focus on the following features to realize the purpose/s of training programs (Saxena, AP, 1983). They are:

i.the training inputs should reflect a design in pursuit of precise training objectives intended outcome of training;

ii.the training design should be clear, amenable and feasible;

iii.there should be a variety of inputs in the form and content of instruction;

iv.the scheme of inputs should be need-based and to the extent possible, display the felt needs of trainees;

v.the inputs have to meet the test of relevance, specifically with reference to context and applicability. The context of inputs has to be related to the user and his/her environment, taking due note of its strength as well as weaknesses.

These key characteristics enable the training institutes / trainers to design and organize the training programs more effectively and useful to the participants and to improve the administrative efficiency. Keeping in view these factors, here an attempt is made, to analyze the perception of the respondents on the subject-content imparted in NREGS training program organized by the APARD.

All the respondents were asked a general question, how much of their time is spent in the office and field on an average as per job requirement. A large majority of them, particularly higher level bureaucracy i.e., PD/APD, PO, APOs, expressed that more than half of their time is spent in office work. They are locked up with office work, conducting meetings, attending meetings at the district headquarters, and other ceremonial functions. As a result, they are unable to pay attention to the field work/implementation of the developmental works including the NREGS. This would necessitate periodical training programs focusing on field situation/ground realities, particularly the planning and implementation of the schemes/works. The training program design based on the ground realities would not only enhance the capacity building of the officials/authorities concerned, but also improve the efficiency of the administration.

To a question, have you received training on NREGS at APARD, an overwhelming percentage of them (66%) are in the affirmative, while an insignificant number mention that they have not undergone the training. The respondents, who have undergone training, were further probed to indicate the number of days that they received the training About two thirds (61.4%) of them mentioned it was less than five days. About one-fifth (19.3%) and 12.3% of them said it was 5-10 days and 10-15 days, respectively. More than three-fourths of them (79%) maintained that they received the training in the initial stages of their involvement in NREGS activities. (Table No: 4, 5 &6).

 

 

 

 

Table 4: Participants training places (District & Position wise)

 

Position

District  

Total

Anantapuram Nalgonda Visakapatanam
APARD DLRC CLRC APARD CLRC APARD APARD

(RD)

DLRC CLRC  
PD/APD 0 (0.0) 0 (0.0) 0 (0.0) 1 (20.0) 0 (0.0) 3 (60.0) 1 (20.0) 0 (0.0) 0 (0.0) 5 (100)
PO 3 (30.0) 1 (10.0) 0 (0.0) 3 (30.0) 0 (0.0) 2 (20.0) 1 (10.0) 0 (0.0) 0 (0.0) 10 (100)
APO 2 (25.0) 0 (0.0) 0 (0.0) 3 (37.5) 0 (0.0) 2 (25.0) 0 (0.0) 0 (0.0) 1 (12.5) 8 (100)
TA 0 (0.0) 10 (33.3) 1 (3.3) 7 (23.3) 4 (13.3) 6 (20.0) 1 (3.3) 1 (3.3) 0 (0.0) 30 (100)
Total 5 (9.4) 11 (20.8) 1 (1.9) 14 (26.4) 4 (7.5) 13 (24.5) 3 (5.7) 1 (1.9) 1 (1.9) 53 (100)
                       

Note: DLRC: District livelihood Resource center ,CLRC: Cluster livelihood Resource center, RD: Rural development

*.The figures in parenthesis indicate row percentage

 

Table 5: Respondents opinion on duration of training

 

Position

Duration  

Total

less than 5 days 5-10 days above 10 days No training
PD/APD 4 (57.1) 0 (0.0) 1 (14.3) 2 (28.6) 7 (100)
PO 6 (60.0) 3 (30.0) 1 (10.0) 0 (0.0) 10 (100)
APO 3 (37.5) 1 (12.5) 4 (50.0) 0 (0.0) 8 (100)
TA 22 (68.8) 7 (21.9) 1 (3.1) 2 (6.3) 32 (100)
Total 35 (61.4) 11 (19.3) 7 (12.3) 4 (7.0) 57 (100)

*.The figures in parenthesis indicate row percentage

 

Table 6: Respondents opinion on training given at initial stage of three districts

 

Position

Response  

Total

Yes No
PD/APD 5 (71.4) 2 (28.6) 7 (100)
PO 10 (100.0) 0 (0.0) 10 (100)
APO 8 (100.0) 0 (0.0) 8 (100)
TA 22 (68.8) 10 (31.3) 32 (100)
Total 45 (78.9) 12 (21.1) 57 (100)

*.The figures in parenthesis indicate row percentage

 

Subject Content Covered in Training Programme for APOs

The analysis of the training program schedule prepared by CNRM for APOs, who are specifically appointed for NREGS, reveal that it cover fourteen subjects/topics. They are: i) performance indicators of NREGS; ii) watershed; iii) Indira Prabha; iv) preparation of project mode planning; v) information management; vi) technical aspects of works; vii) NREGS – field visits; viii) ‘Raga’ software; ix) transparency and accountability; x) Right to Information Act and NREGS; xi) social audit; xii) payment of wages through smart cards; xiii) disciplinary action procedure; xiv) conduct of Monday meetings; etc. All these are mostly related to the planning and implementation of the NREGS. The respondents opined similarly i.e., time allotted for each topic is not adequate and require more attention on the subjects.The subject-content designed in the training for Technical Assistants is on civil engineering works, technical aspects, and performance indicators of the MGNREGP.

The above analysis reveals that the CNRM has designed the subject-content for each category of officials and organized the training programs, during the last three years. The analysis unfolds that the duration of the training and allocation of time on each topic/issue is to be increased suitably.

 

The Effectiveness of Training Subject-Content and Methods

The present study reveals that majority of the employees, particularly the lower level employees, engaged in NREGS are appointed on contract basis and possess less than five years of experience in planning and implementation of development programs, including MGNREGS. They are not exposed much to the political and administrative realities of NREGS, and also do not have pre-training. Further, the Government is also making use of information technology/software in the implementation of the program. These factors necessitate the need for training to the personnel/functionaries engaged in NREGS. During the field survey, it is observed that the majority of respondents felt that there is a need for learning new skills and knowledge on NREGS. They remarked that the training on MGNREGS would serve two purposes: one, improve the capabilities of the trainees; two, effective delivery of services to the NREGS beneficiaries. Therefore, it is appropriate on the part of training institutes particularly APARD to organize series of training programs, even in the future.

As regards the relevance of training contents and methods adopted, majority of the respondents expressed that they are useful to them in the planning and implementation of the programs.

The respondents, who received training at APARD, Hyderabad, were asked a question about the usefulness of theoretical exposure given on the subject during the period, nearly three-fourths of them (73.1%) maintained that it is useful and about one-fourth of them (23.1%) opined that it is very useful. An insignificant percentage of them (3.8%) expressed that it is useful to a limited extent (Table No. 7).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 7: Respondents perception on theoretical exposure given on the subject

 

Districts

Topics  

Total

Very Useful Useful Limited Useful
Anantapuram 3 (17.6) 14 (82.4) 0 (0.0) 17 (100)
Nalgonda 1 (5.6) 16 (88.9) 1 (5.6) 18 (100)
Visakapatanam 8 (47.1) 8 (47.1) 1 (5.9) 17 (100)
Total 12 (23.1) 38 (73.1) 2 (3.8) 52 (100)

*.The figures in parenthesis indicate row percentage

 

To a question, to what extent the practical orientation course and field visits were useful to them, more than one-third (37.3%) and more than half of them (52.9%) opined that they are very useful and useful respectively. A similar situation prevails across all the districts and positions. However, a few of them (9.8%) argued that they are useful to a limited extent. These respondents represent the category of Program Officers and Technical Assistants (Table No. 8).

 

 

Table 8: Respondents perception on extent of the practical orientation course and field visits of three districts

 

Position

District  

Total

Very Useful Useful Limited Useful
PD/APD 2 (40.0) 3 (60.0) 0 (0.0) 5 (100)
PO 0 (0.0) 6 (60.0) 4 (40.0) 10 (100)
APO 4 (50.0) 4 (50.0) 0 (0.0) 8 (100)
TAs 13 (46.4) 14 (50.0) 1 (3.6) 28 (100)
Total 19 (37.3) 27 (52.9) 5 (9.8) 51 (100)

*.The figures in parenthesis indicate row percentage

 

The respondents, who received the training at APARD were asked to rate the effectiveness of modes of training on a four-point scale (Highly effective, effective, moderately effective, not at all effective). The modes which are rated as highly effective are group discussions/presentation, individual interaction with resource persons, field visits, and peer training/learning, small group discussions. Further, the table reveals that the lecture method, provision to clarify doubts, meeting with the state level officials, small group discussion, field visits are rated as effective methods of training the functionaries. The cultural programs, brain storming, computer learning, interactive learning methods, role play are also rated as moderately effective modes of training. Considerable percentage of respondents opined that films, role play, brain storming, flash cards, interactive learning methods are not at all effective for imparting skills and knowledge to the functionaries.

MGNREGS Implementation: Perceptions of Village Secretaries and Elected Representatives of Gram Panchayat and Direct Beneficiaries of the Scheme

The role of the ground level functionaries is as important as those sitting at the top and making decisions at the Mandal level for the success of the people-oriented program like N(AP)REGS. Equally important is the role of the local leaders. So is true about the very people for whose sake this gigantic program is initiated. Hence, all these sections of stakeholders are interviewed to elicit their opinion of the APREGS implementation in their respective villages. In the following sections, the opinion of the respective stakeholders is presented to understand the cascading effect of the program at the ground level. The data elicited from the respective stakeholders is vastly complemented by the information gathered through ‘village case studies’ and village level ‘focus group discussions (FGDs).’

Village Secretaries

The implementation of N (AP)REGS on ground begins from Village Secretary’s office, when he/she issues ‘job cards’ to the beneficiaries in their respective villages. Hence, to understand the ground reality of the implementation of APREGS, 33 members in a position of ‘Village Secretaries’ or those ‘in-charge’ of this office in the studied villages in the three districts of Ananthapur, Nalgonda and Visakhapatnam were interviewed.

Secretaries in Action

Though, Secretaries are not expected to go to field as often as other functionaries (from MPDO office) are required to, yet, in those villages, where members are more aware about working of APREGS, insist them to visit the work-sites to listen to them and verify their doubts. Yet, when asked about the time devotion in the field and office, an overwhelming majority of the Secretaries confessed that, they devote only 20 per cent of their time in the field sites.

As already mentioned above, Secretaries have important duties as per APREGS guidelines, that of issuing job cards and checking muster rolls, but only 22 (66.7 per cent) of those interviewed have indeed fulfilled these duties, while the remaining 11 (33.3 per cent) members have said; they are hardly involved in these affairs, they simply sign the relevant records without even having a look at them. They do so under pressure from the local politicians and sometimes under the coercion of some of the over-imposing MPDO officials. All of the 22 Secretaries who take part actively are also not too happy, for they are also not allowed to assert themselves exactly for the reason quoted by the other 11 members. They do it only not to invite the ire of the powerful lobbies. This trend is more acute in the very backward villages in all the three districts. In other words, garnering coordination and support from the elected members like Sarpanch or Ward Members in the villages is never easy for the Village Secretaries anywhere in AP, and the studied three districts of Ananthapur, Nalgonda and Visakhapatnam were also no different. The plight of the Secretaries in the field gives an impression that the role of Secretaries is only a ‘rubber stamp’ kind of arrangement. They are forced to act only when the labors take a strong representation to them and ask them to verify certain documents or force them to verify the estimations on the sites of work. Such a kind of situation leads them to a lot of hardships, because they feel sandwiched between the power of the higher-ups and the ire of the people.

Impact of APREGS in the Villages

When Secretaries were asked about the supposed impact of APREGS in their Panchayats, a majority (32: 97.0 per cent) of the Secretaries were of the opinion that these works have not created any durable and useful assets including natural resource enhancement in a determinant measures. However, land development and irrigation enhancement is said to have received prominence, 18 (54.5 per cent) Secretaries across all the three districts found the work on them quite visible. But, they were not sure, as to how much impact it had on the agriculture production because 32 (97.0 per cent) members had no idea about production statistics. However, 31 (93.9 per cent) members thought that, it has definitely done well for the people in terms of fetching employment to them in the village, though 100 days target is not reached for various reasons in many of the studied villages. It was due to ignorance of people about the scheme and its long-term benefits to them.

On social issues like women empowerment, a majority of the Secretaries (24 or 72.7 per cent) in all the three regions were unanimous that it has indeed brought qualitative change in their lives. According to the Secretaries, women, especially those with husbands addicted to alcohol, are now feeling more secure as they now have an assurance of feeding themselves and their children without worrying much. 6 (18.2 per cent) of them felt APREGS has not made any positive change in the lives of the women, whereas 3 (9.1 per cent) Secretaries couldn’t judge whether it has made any change to the lives of women or not.

Elected Representatives of Panchayati Raj

Though local leaders are not accorded much of an active role in the APREGS’s day-to- day implementation, yet, the role of the people’s representatives is considered crucial for the success of this program by its observers; Hence, 180 (1/3rd among them were women) such representatives from the selected Mandals from the three districts were interviewed for this study. They included MandalParishad Territorial Constituency (MPTC) members, MandalParishad Presidents (MPP), Sarpanchs, Vice-Sarpanchs and Ward Members.

A majority of the elected representatives, from bottom to top level in Mandals, feel that, day-to-day working of APREGS is not their priority, so it is of least importance for them to be involved in it. Moreover, all members in the sample, especially MPP, MPTC and Sarpanchs, argue, “Why should they waste their time on such programs, when they are not entrusted with decisive role or powers?” According to them, a Secretary approves and prepares job cards; people take them and go for work, then MPDO officials oversee all the activities – so the story ends there. On asked about the allegations on them regarding their involvement in collusion with the Field Assistants (FAs) in deciding the works, workers and disbursement of funds, the leaders especially, Sarpanchs, MPTC and MPP across all the three districts were furious to hear such things against them and refuted to accept such charges and termed them as false propaganda spread by their opponents to tarnish their image. None of the leaders accepted that they had a role in identification of works in their village.

Direct Beneficiaries of APREGS

The nucleus of the APREGS program is the ‘direct beneficiaries’ for whose sake this scheme is launched in such huge scale. Considering the importance of this chunk, 231 beneficiaries from the selected three districts were randomly identified to elicit their opinion on the implementation of APREGS in their respective villages.

Coming to the implementation of APREGS program and its awareness; 83 (35.9 per cent) respondents were not aware about securing job in APREGS. 67 (29.0 per cent) of the total respondents also did not know, that they are entitled to 100 days of work. As many as 188 (81.4 per cent) members had never heard about unemployment allowance. In fact, in Visakhapatnam, not a single person has availed this facility, though there were numerous complaints about many job card holding members being sent back by FAs and TAs on pretext of unavailability of work. Only 83 (35.9 per cent) respondents knew that, they should be paid more wages for traveling over 5 Kms. to work. 54 (23.4 per cent) members were not aware about how the mode of payment is made, because these members always received money by hand from their respective FAs. This was more common in Visakhapatnam. 129 (55.8 per cent) workers were also not aware that, they can avail whatever information they want by exercising Right to Information Act (RTI Act). However, it would be too much of expectation from them to know about this right, given the educational background of these respondents. 46 (19.9 per cent) members did not know that there should be certain minimum facilities like drinking water, shelter, first-aid kit and ‘ayas’ to look after infants at the work-sites. Less informed respondents mostly belonged to SC and ST categories in relatively more remote villages in their respective districts. Nonetheless, it was heartening to find that majority of the respondents, barring 13 (5.6 per cent) members; knew that women have to be paid equal wages at par with the men-folk.

When the respondents were asked about the maximum number of days of work they availed in APREGS,a majority (90: 39.0 per cent) of the respondents admitted to have got only 15 days or less of work. Only 14 (6.1 per cent) of the total sample could get 30 days of work, 13 (5.6 per cent) members benefited with 45 days of work, other 32 (13.9 per cent) members were able to get two months of work. 39 (16.9 per cent) members availed 75 days of work; whereas 25 (10.8 per cent) members could get 90 days of wage work. Only 18 (7.8 per cent) respondents got complete 100 days of work. In terms of monetary benefit, 144 (62.3 per cent) members, a majority chunk, were able to earn up to Rs. 3000/- from APREGS. Another 45 (19.5 per cent) members were able to earn up to Rs. 6000/-, 26 (11.3 per cent) members earned up to Rs. 9000/-. 16 (6.9 per cent) members reached to a figure of Rs. 12000/- in one season of this scheme.

Overall Conclusions

The Government of India and State governments, including Andhra Pradesh has recognized the importance of training to the administrators. In fact, of late, there has been significant enlargement of training infrastructure--even proliferation, enhancement of financial outlays and consequential numerical increase in the number of training opportunities available to administrators/employees. The APARD, the premier institute for training the rural bureaucracy and non-officials, has been organizing series of training programs to improve the capacity building of the participants/trainees.

The analysis, presented in the foregoing pages reveals that the respondents/trainees who have undergone training on various dimensions of NREGS at APARD, during 2006-2009, are mostly males; middle-aged group; representing all the castes indicating representative bureaucracy; Largely, the trainees belong to the Hindu community. They possess higher qualification, working as contract employees and completed five or less than five years of service; come from agricultural and weak families. Most of these factors are conducive for imparting training to the employees and, it is hoped, the training inputs given by APARD would further contribute to the enhancement of administrative efficiency of the trainees. As the trainees are mostly locked up with office and ceremonial work, the periodical training at APARD would enthuse them to improve their capacities to effectively encourage the functions of the important programs like NREGS or any other rural development program.

An examination of the subjects/contents taught at APARD reveals that the participants exposed to a wide range of topics/issues related to NREGS. The higher level officials have undergone the foundation course, while lower level officials are exposed to the project mode planning and watershed programs.

The analysis unfolds that the theoretical exposure, practical orientation and field visits contributed to improve the administrative capacities of the participants. The training methods such as group discussions, individual interaction with resource persons, field visits, peer learning and lecture method etc., are rated as effective modes of training. The respondents, particularly the lower level bureaucracy-TAs–are satisfied with the key elements such as coverage of content, balance between theory and practice, technical aspects, methods taught to mobilize labor groups, sharing experience among participants, etc, taught at APARD.

An examination of the impact of the training on the functioning of the participants reveals that it has helped them develop positive thinking; ability to function as responsible public servants; mobilize the community interest groups and labor groups, preparation of plans and works suitable to the local needs. All these factors helped them to handle the NREGS more effectively.

The study also highlighted the constraints/limitations of the training program. They are: i) lack of adequate representation of the females, young people, lower educational background, of the employees/trainees; ii) lack of follow-up action during the post-training period, iii) less priority to computer/raga software operation; iv) less duration of training period; v) poor lodging facilities; vii) poor quality of food and services at APARD etc. which need to be taken care of in the future programs.

The study also observed that lack of autonomy to the lower level officials in preparing the works; delay in executing the works; lack of proper planning of the schemes; misutilization of the funds; involvement of political leaders in the implementation of the schemes; corrupt bureaucracy; natural disasters like drought and floods; lack of supervision and monitoring; no proper social audit; non-availability of works in the village, particularly benefiting the weaker-sections(SC/ST); poor quality of assets etc which collectively contributed to hampering the progress of the MGNREGS in the State.

Village Secretaries, Local Elected Representatives and Beneficiaries are important stakeholders in the APREGS. Hence, their role is very crucial to the success of the program of this magnitude. However, the findings from the field suggest that, the relevance of Secretaries ends with the issuing of job cards to the beneficiaries. It is also found that, whenever the services of Secretaries are required, they are most often coerced to follow the dictates of the local politicians and not allowed to function freely. Other important stakeholder are the local elected representatives. Although, according to APREGS guidelines, they do not have much of a role in this Scheme, yet, the study reveals that all the major decisions are taken by these leaders. Most of these decisions are laced with their political and monetary interests and against the poor and innocent people whom they may dislike. Beneficiaries, on the other hand, are found to be less vulnerable if they are well aware about the program and also more assertive about their rights. Then again, the Indian society being so dynamic, there tends to be some sections in every village where some are more aware and some less, and in such situations the weaker sections are found to be more at the mercy of those who dictate the terms of the Scheme.

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