Institute for Social and Economic Change

Working Paper: 492

MGNREGA Quality Monitoring and Multiplier 'Malai' for the
Richer States and Regions: Evidence on Elite Capture of
Assets in Karnataka and Ways Forward

Sanjiv Kumar
S Madheswaran
B P Vani



Workfare programme reduces poverty in two ways, i.e., providing wage employment during lean season to many, and sustainable assets, which had multiplier and productivity enhancement impact, to the community and the chosen few. Its wage employment component can be good protection against seasonal shock, but sustainable asset with multiplier impact had livelihood enhancement and poverty elimination impact. This study focuses on the asset component of the programme. Along with Social Audit and Ombudsman, Quality Monitors are the third important accountability institution established under the MGNREGA. The authors have not come across any study on MGNREGA Quality Monitoring, hence, this study tries to examine if a credible Quality Monitoring and its enforcement and follow-up mechanism was put in place in Karnataka. The study finds lackadaisical implementation of Quality Monitoring in Karnataka. Availability of adequate information was an issue for Quality Monitoring in Karnataka. In the absence of a Director, there was no one to coordinate and consolidate the information and assist the State Government and SEGC in monitoring and follow-up on the important findings of the Quality Monitors. State Employment Guarantee Council did not fully appreciate the importance of their work and did not try to actively discuss quality issues and aspects related to further improvement of this institution. Evidences show that there was neither credible Quality Monitoring nor credible enforcement and follow-up mechanism for their reports and findings. Quality Monitors have brought to light a large number of very serious irregularities in the asset quality and quantity, but their findings have remained unattended.

The quality of assets, where (which region or states) it was created and who reaped its benefits are very important questions to understand the programme’s effectiveness. Hence, this study tried to incidentally explore them. The study also examines, through both secondary, as well as, primary evidences, if the benefits of sustainable assets created and its multiplier impact was accruing to the poorer states; poorer regions within a state, and to the poor HHs. From the secondary evidences, the study finds that richer and developed states, with less number of poor HHs, were creating more assets than the poorer states with more poverty load. The same trend was noticed across districts within Karnataka state. These meant that assets were not being created in the areas where it was required the most. Primary evidences from Karnataka show elite capture of assets created largely due to the individual assets and benefits of water resource-based community assets accruing predominantly to the landholding HHs proportionate to the size of their holdings. The study explores causes and consequences, and examines the possible policy options and ways forward.

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