It was once dubbed “Food for Work” by the Indian government.
Since 2005, its more sophisticated version – the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) – supposedly guarantees 100 days of manual employment for every poor household in the country’s rural areas “if demanded”.
Now, a report by Delhi-based Centre for Environment and Food Security (CEFS) reveals that the majority of poor families in Orissa and Uttar Pradesh didn’t get even one day’s employment from the scheme last year. Moreover, associated public food distribution schemes, along with state benefits for the very poor, were virtually non-existent.
The report levels some of its strongest criticism against India’s richest private mining enterprise, London-listed Vedanta Resources plc. In recent years, the company has spared no effort in boasting of its feeding programme for young children living around its Lanjigarh alumina smelter complex in Orissa’s Kalahandi district. The programme has been consistently cited by Vedanta supremo, Anil Agarwal, to justify his company’s widespread despoliation of the area. But, according to CEFS, this so-called Integrated Child Development scheme (ISDS) “is only peanuts, literally and figuratively both.