Dialogues for democracy, lessons from Rajasthan -Sakina Dhorajiwala, Puma Chandra Kishan and Rajendran Narayanan
Federalism and good governance need engagement between people and officials, as the MGNREGA programme shows
It is 45 days and counting since lakhs of farmers have gathered in Delhi protesting against the farm laws. Leaving aside the merits and demerits of the laws, many are aggrieved about the process of promulgation of the laws as it lacked any consultation with those that the laws are purportedly meant to serve.
Very often, policy makers ignore the need for dialogue and deliberation with beneficiaries. Consultations are needed during the initial stages of law making of a government programme as much as a continuous dialogic exercise must be the norm for effective programme implementation. Even when policies are anchored in good principles, their implementation is often messy and requires iterations based on people’s concerns. In particular, redistributive, people-facing welfare policies need constant feedback.
We illustrate this through an example of the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in Rajasthan. Rajasthan has a healthy tradition of consulting with worker groups and civil society organisations not only in the initial stage of policy formulation but also to take continuous feedback from the field and carry out periodic midway course corrections. In the case of MGNREGA, engagement with civil society organisations had been institutionalised in the MGNREGA samvads; some of which were attended by the Chief Minister of Rajasthan.
MGNREGA wages are now directly credited from the central government to a worker’s bank account. While there is a case to be made for direct transfers, this system is not without its pitfalls. An overreliance on the technical architecture of MGNREGA has subverted workers’ rights. The troubles are compounded when things go wrong as workers run from pillar to post knocking on the doors of various government officials, banks, payment disbursement agencies, panchayat officials, etc.
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The Hindu, 12 January, 2021, https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/dialogues-for-democracy-lessons-from-rajasthan/article33552879.ece?homepage=true