Bangalore: Besides creating labour shortage in the agriculture sector, cost of farm production increased by upto 20 percent in Karnataka after implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Centre’s flagship programme aimed at alleviating poverty, revealed a new research study.

The study by Institute for Social and Economic Change Bangalore, stated that after implementation of the job scheme, in majority of villages shortage of labour in agriculture was observed during kharif sowing season of July, August and September.

The scheme came into operation in February 2006.

"The majority of the villagers were of the view that after MGNREGA implementation, cost of production in agriculture has increased by 10 to 20 per cent because of scarcity of labour," said the study, titled 'Impact of NREGA on Wage Rate, Food Security and Rural Urban Migration in Karnataka (2011)."

Authors of the study, Pramod Kumar, professor and head, Agriculture Development and Rural Transformation Centre (ADRTC), and Dr I Maruthi of ADRTC of ISEC, said daily wages in the farm sector increased by 50 percent after implementation of the scheme.

"Works taken up under MGNREGA should be planned in such a way that labour is strictly employed for the scheme after the sowing and harvesting seasons of rabi and kharif crops is over. This planning has to be done at the panchayat, block and district levels depending upon the cropping pattern of the respective regions," they said.

The researchers studied performance of the scheme in villages of Bidar, Bellary, Chamarajanagar, Chikmagalur and Dharwad districts with a sample of 254 households.

"A clear majority of households indicated the scheme has not been successful in raising their living standards or their consumption levels and the reasons were that the programme has not provided enough number of days of work to make a significant dent on the poverty level," it said.

Against 100 days of guaranteed employment, the State provided on an average of only 35 days in 2008-09, 57 days in 2009-10 and 32 days in 2010-11 (up to November 2010). The percentage share of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and women in the total man-days was 17, 10 and 45 respectively.

"The average wage rate was recorded at Rs 86 per day under the scheme, whereas the stipulated minimum wage for unskilled labour in Karnataka is fixed at Rs 119," the study said.

On the positive side, over 60 participants in the survey said the scheme has given greater independence to women while 37 percent agreed it has provided protection against extreme poverty.

Around 45 percent indicated that it has helped reduce distress migration from villages to towns/cities. There were incidences of migration because of not getting work under the job schemes as well households returning back to villages to work under the NREGA, Dr Kumar and Dr Maruthi said.

Contrary to the norm, social auditing has not been done in the districts of Kolar, Koppal, Mandya, Mysore, Tumkur, Udupi, Hassan, Bagalkote, Bijapur and Chamarajanagar.

For better implementation of the programme, the study suggested increase in work days and wage rate, providing food within the programme, and information on various aspects of the scheme. It also said proper punishment system should be put in place for unscrupulous officials found guilty of indulging in corruption and other untoward activities.