India is the world’s largest open air lavatory with over 620 million people practising open defecation in the country. Seeking to address this persisting problem, the UPA government has widened the scope of its flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to include works relating to rural sanitation in collaboration with the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyaan (NBA) Scheme.

This interlinking is aimed at strengthening the base of rural livelihood and creates durable assets in rural areas and infrastructure at a village level. More specifically, it shall accelerate sanitation coverage in rural areas to provide privacy and dignity particularly to women.

“As per the Para 4 (1) IV (i) of the Schedule- I of the MGNREG Act…, taking up rural sanitation related works, such as, individual household latrines, school toilets, Anganwadi toilets can be taken up either independently or in convergence with schemes of other Government Departments to achieve “open defecation free status,” stated an official Ministry of Rural Development NREGA Division circular.

The amendment made to the existing guidelines incorporates various changes including Individual Household latrine (IHHL) works can be taken up either under NBA or independently under MGNREGS, as per the choice of the beneficiary.

According to the circular, “in the case of IHHL works taken up in convergence with NBA, the MGNREGS component stands increased from the present Rs. 4,500 to Rs. 5,400”.

Additionally, the guidelines specifically mention where IHHLs are taken up independently under MGNREGS, “the payment shall be based on the actual value of work done, subject to the overall outflow from MGNREGS funds limited to Rs. 10,000 per IHHL including the wage rate and material cost. Any expenditure over and above this amount shall be there beneficiary contribution”.

The design and specifications shall continue to be laid down by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. Further, the data of such IHHL’s shall be shared with implementing agencies to ensure “no further incentive is paid from NBA funds”. This will demarcate toilets taken up under NBA in convergence with MGNREGS and independently of the scheme.

“For all works taken up by the Gram Panchayats, including the rural sanitation works taken up based on the above guidelines, the cost of the material component including the wages of the skilled and semi-skilled workers shall not exceed forty per cent at the Gram Panchayat level.