The food for work programme is among some of the most successful schemes launched by the government of India (GOI). After taking experiencing the global hunger situation and increasing poverty this scheme the GOI Launched the Food for work scheme in 1977, which help many poor unskilled labourers to earn food for their families just by assisting in construction works.
Later on, in 2001 the GOI made some modifications and re-named it as National Food for Work Programme. The main aim of this scheme was to eliminate hunger and strengthen the rural infrastructure of India.
The best part of this scheme was that it addressed two major problems at once i.e. unemployment and hunger. Later on, in 2005 this scheme with many changes in policy enactment, implementation, and control, was merged under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA).
What is the Food for Work Programme?
Despite the fact that India is a developing nation there are still many backward remote areas of India with a scarcity of food and water. However, India is been consistently making efforts for the betterment of these areas and thus in 1977 Government of India launched the food for work programme. As the name suggests under this scheme food was provided as wages to the unskilled labourers. The scheme was launched by the central government and the cost of food is also borne by the central government but the transportation cost, handling charges and other extra charges are at the state government’s cost.
In the beginning, this scheme started in the most backward districts of India with the main aim to employ the people of backward villages. However, many states reduced food grain prices for the people of these backward areas but it was found that these grains were bought by traders from the poor people at lower rates and are being re-sell in the market at a higher price. The best part of this scheme is that it is not limited to people below the poverty line but the people above the poverty line can also enjoy its benefits.
Some of the objectives of launching the Food for Work Programme:
Some of the main objectives of this scheme were to distribute free food to poor people living in backward regions of India. In the initial stage, the unskilled labourers were provided with food instead of wages at the site they work. The primary motive of this scheme at that time was to save the lives of poor people dying from scarcity simultaneously involving this section of the society in nation-building. However, when this scheme merged with NREGA laborers started to get to pay for their work along with food. Under this scheme, the collector of the district is appointed as the nodal officer to make sure that the food for work programme runs fine in his district. The central government has provided all the rights to the collector, to take all the necessary legal actions against anyone found tampering with this programme.
Advantages of the Food for Work Programme
The Food for Work programme proved to be quite advantageous for many people living across India and some of its major advantages are highlighted below.
- Everyone gets employed under this program no matter whether he/she holds a BPL (Below Poverty Line) or APL (Above the poverty line) card.
- After the collaboration of the Food for Work Programme and NREGA, the beneficiaries used to get wages along with food.
- Under this programme, anyone can enrol for employment no matter whether they are educated or not, skilled or unskilled.
- With the help of the Food for Work Programme, people started getting employment in their districts which restricted the migration of labourers from other states.
- Instead of just getting free food this scheme allowed poor people from many districts of India to contribute their part to the economic growth of the nation.
Limitations of the Food for Work Programme
Even though the food for work scheme has benefitted many people but still there are many limitations to it and some of them are mentioned below.
- No guidelines were issued from the government end on registering labour under this act.
- The food for work program provides only short-term employment and that too only a single member of a family.
- The biggest limitation of this scheme is that there are no minimum wages fixed by the government. Thus in many cases, it has been found that workers were exploited by the contractors.
- Under this programme, there was no provision for the worker’s safety and thus workers need to carry out their job putting their life at risk. Also, no insurance has been declared from the government for these labourers in case of injury or death at the worksite.
- Negligence proved to be the biggest limitation of the Food for Work Programme and in the initial stages, it went well. But with time the government officials started negligence resulting in the exploitation of these poor workers.
How does GOI is ensuring the proper working of the Food for Work Programme?
- Data Collection: It is the duty of the collectors or the DM of the district to prepare a monthly, quarterly, and annual report on the food for work programme and submit it to the state government.
- Monitoring Committee: For the proper monitoring and assessment, a team of 5-9 members is formed with at least one female candidate and one candidate from SC/ST. The purpose of this committee is to look after and ensure the proper working of the Food for Work Programme.
- Survey: The central government of India used to carry out surveys at regular intervals in some randomly selected districts to check the ground report of the Food for Work Programme in that district.