Historical InformationThe 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 continued to engage in various rural infrastructure programmes providing support 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 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.
In more recent 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.
The ability to provide reliable road access has a significant social and economic impact on rural communities. India has in recent years shown considerable achievements in terms of improving access in rural areas. The Prime Minister’s Rural Road Programme, PMGSY – a centrally funded programme – continues to have 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.
With more than 100 km of roads being built every day, the PMGSY acknowledges its growing challenge in maintaining these vast infrastructure assets. Road maintenance also has the potential to create significant employment in rural areas. The EIIP has been able to provide valuable experience to the PMGSY from its work in Asia and other regions. A comprehensive study carried out by the ILO on rural road maintenance practices in Madhya Pradesh clearly identified common challenges and offered a series of solutions. The findings of this study had a major influence on state government policies on sustainable provision of road connectivity in rural areas.
Recent EIIP InvolvementRecently, EIIP provided technical support to three major nationwide rural development programmes in India.
Improving rural road maintenanceWith more than 3 million km of rural roads, India faces a formidable task in providing adequate access for rural communities. The PMGSY is the main vehicle for improving all-weather road connectivity in the rural areas. Since its launch in 2000, it has built some 645,000 km of rural roads, with the aim of improving rural connectivity. As part of a World Bank (WB) loan supporting the PMGSY, the ILO 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 were intended for the sector as a whole, thus resulting in training and policy formulation support being provided to most of the states.
Barefoot technicians in MGNREGSIn 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. State institutes of rural development have since then provided training to Barefoot Technicians in some 20 states.
Training rural masonsRecognising a shortage of skilled artisans in the rural areas, the Government commenced training of local builders in the specific work activities required for constructing proper housing for the rural poor. The trained builders are engaged by prospective homeowners to construct their houses.
On the basis of National Occupational Standards developed specifically for the rural masons, the EIIP 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 major rural development 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 has also provided a unique opportunity for advocating the entire decent work agenda in public investments.