An Insight into MGNREGA
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has been one of the flagship social security schemes in rural India to address under-employment in India. After the Act was passed in Parliament on 5th September, 2005, it came into effect from 2nd February, 2006, in 200 districts. Later the coverage of the rural employment scheme was gradually increased till it covered the whole country in 2009. The uniqueness of this Act is that it gives legal guarantee of employment to any male or female member of a rural household, who is willing to do casual manual labour at a statutory minimum wage.
In fact, the passage of MGNREGA has seen the culmination of vital deliberations on the merits and demerits of the wage employment guarantee programme as an appropriate mechanism for social security and poverty reduction in India. For those populace of India who have negligible economic assets and for farmers who are landless or with small
landholdings, MGNREGA has given a new hope. The book underlines that this is a positive and welcome development. This hope can be further strengthened by creating awareness about the scheme and ensuring its effective implementation. The scheme needs to be transformed from being just a means of short-term job provider to long-term sustainable livelihood enhancement initiative. In the light of this study, many insights could be derived and further proposal be given. Sustainable livelihood, employment security, equality, social justice and sustainable rural development in India have assumed greater space in the national community.
But the book points out that the primary field-level research study in the states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh reveals that MGNREGA has to some extent succeeded in providing employment security to the rural people (39 per cent) during lean season and scarcity of employment opportunities. It is also found that the most vulnerable sections–landless labourers, SCs and STs–are not getting their due share in MGNREGA. Though, MGNREGA has been giving employment security to the rural poor, its performance is not up to the mark in providing assured income, a very small percentage of people received at least 100 days of wage employment. Further, this proportion is very low for most vulnerable, i.e. landless labourers, SCs and STs.
The book further highlights MGNREGA has partially arrested unemployment, agricultural productivity, women’s participation, poverty and out-migration among labourers from the rural areas, as they are now able to make both ends meet within their village during the MGNREGA implementation. Demand driven approach of the MGNREGA is not fully utilised by the rural poor as very few beneficiaries applied for job through proper channel. Several lacunae have been identified in relation to the institutional aspect in implementation of MGNREGA. For effective implementation, the book advises the appointment of an employment guarantee assistant in each gram panchayat. In a nutshell, this book is an outcome of a research study conducted to capture the process of implementation of this landmark social security scheme and its impact on the lives and livelihoods of the rural poor..
By Ashok Kumar