Employment-Intensive Investment in India

Web page | 08 February 2017

Current EIIP Involvement

At present, EIIP is providing technical support to three major nationwide rural development programmes in India.

Improving rural road maintenance
With more than 3 million km of rural roads, India faces a formidable task in providing adequate access for rural communities. The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) is a federal government scheme improving all weather road connectivity in the rural areas. Since its launch in 2000, it has built some 450,000 km of rural roads, with the aim to connect all habitations with a population of more than 500 persons in the plain areas and 250 persons in hill States, the tribal and desert areas. As part of a World Bank (WB) loan supporting the PMGSY, the ILO has since 2013 provided technical assistance in developing sustainable maintenance arrangements for rural roads.

While the WB funded project focuses on eight states in Northern India, the outputs of the ILO support in this field are intended for the sector as a whole, thus resulting in training and policy formulation support being provided to most of the states in the country.

Barefoot technicians in MGNREGS
In 2015, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA), started training a new cadre of field supervisory staff as a measure to improve work operations and in the long-term achieve improvements in quality and sustainability of produced assets. To fill the shortage of technical staff, the states are now encouraged to recruit and train people with minimum 10-year education to take charge of daily supervision of MGNREGA work sites, the so-called Barefoot Technicians.

The candidate Barefoot Technicians are provided a 3-month course, covering technical, administrative and managerial subjects. The first two training of trainer courses took place at the National Institute of Rural Development, NIRD, in Hyderabad. The ILO provided support in developing National Occupational Standards and comprehensive training material covering the entire course. At present, state institutes of rural development are training Barefoot Technicians in some 20 states.

Training rural masons
Recognising a shortage of skilled artisans in the rural areas, the Government has commenced training of local builders in the specific work activities required for constructing proper housing for the rural poor. The trained builders will be engaged by prospective homeowners to construct their houses.

On the basis of National Occupational Standards developed specifically for the rural masons, the EIIP has prepared training material for a 6-week course. Training of trainers started in 2015 in the states of Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. The Government intends to train 50,000 rural masons across the country.

The extensive experience of the EIIP has proven relevant to the above programmes in India, thus strengthening capacity development efforts, improving quality of works and sustaining essential infrastructure assets. While providing basic infrastructure to poor and vulnerable populations, these programmes also create new jobs and business opportunities in rural areas. The involvement of the ILO provides a unique opportunity for advocating the entire decent work agenda in public investments.

Historical Information

The ILO’s Employment Intensive Investment Programme (EIIP) began its cooperation with India in 1981, supporting three field projects, two located in the State of West Bengal and the third in the State of Tamil Nadu. The objective was to alleviate poverty through the creation of jobs and income for the rural poor. Project activities aimed at the development of rural infrastructure, water and soil conservation, forestry, irrigation and related works.

Over the years, the EIIP has continued to engage in various rural infrastructure programmes in India providing assistance to state and local government authorities, with the aim to create sustainable arrangements for rural infrastructure provision using a local resource-based approach. Between 2002 and 2005, technical assistance was provided to the State of Orissa in developing Integrated Rural Accessibility Planning (IRAP) tools for Panchayati Raj Institutions and to the State of Madhya Pradesh in establishing effective maintenance systems for rural roads.

At the early stages of the development of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, enacted in 2005, the ILO was also already supporting the Indian Government in the development of methodologies for participatory planning and selection of employment intensive environmental works. The EIIP developed a set of guidelines for use at the State level to implement MGNREGA schemes focusing on participatory planning of water conservation and harvesting, and flood control and protection works applying employment-intensive work methods.

During the last 10 years the ILO has also facilitated various south-south collaboration on public works programmes. The experience from rural development programmes in India is clearly reflected in ILO training programmes on innovations in public employment programmes, highlighting some of their challenges and successes. During the same period, the ILO also carried out a review of decent work and green jobs in MGNREGA in the Kaimur District in Bihar, looking at the relationships between decent work and environmental sustainability and assessing some of the transformational issues in MGNREGA.

India has in recent years shown considerable achievements in terms of improving access in rural areas. The PMGSY – a centrally funded programme – has had a major impact in improving the quality of rural roads across the country. With its aim of providing all-weather road connectivity, it has already achieved this for all communities with more than 1,000 inhabitants. Despite significant achievement, with more than 100 km of roads being built every day, the PMGSY is now facing a growing challenge in maintaining the vast infrastructure assets. Already back in 2002, the ILO received a request from the World Bank to contribute in providing technical support to the quality and maintenance aspects of the PMGSY.

The ability to sustain good road access has a significant social and economic impact on rural communities. Road maintenance also has the potential to create significant employment in rural areas. The EIIP has been able to provide valuable experience from its work in Asia and other regions. The comprehensive rural road maintenance study carried out by the ILO in Madhya Pradesh clearly identified common challenges and offered a series of solutions. The findings of this study had a major influence on government policies on sustainable provision of road connectivity in rural areas.

With its involvement in the aforementioned three rural programmes, the ILO has gradually expanded its technical collaboration and is today providing inputs to all states in India.