Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)
The act was first proposed in 1991 by P.V. Narasimha Rao. In 2006, it was finally accepted in the parliament and commenced implementation in 625 districts of India. Based on this pilot experience, NREGA was scoped up to covered all the districts of India from 1 April 2008. The statute is hailed by the government as “the largest and most ambitious social security and public works programme in the world”. In its World Development Report 2014, the World Bank termed it a “stellar example of rural development”.
The MGNREGA was initiated with the objective of “enhancing livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year, to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work”. Another aim of MGNREGA is to create durable assets (such as roads, canals, ponds and wells). Employment is to be provided within 5 km of an applicant’s residence, and minimum wages are to be paid. If work is not provided within 15 days of applying, applicants are entitled to an unemployment allowance. Thus, employment under MGNREGA is a legal entitlement.
MGNREGA is to be implemented mainly by gram panchayats (GPs). The involvement of contractors is banned. Labour-intensive tasks like creating infrastructure for water harvesting, drought relief and flood control are preferred.
Apart from providing economic security and creating rural assets, NREGA can help in protecting the environment, empowering rural women, reducing rural-urban migration and fostering social equity, among others.”
The law provides many safeguards to promote its effective management and implementation. The act explicitly mentions the principles and agencies for implementation, list of allowed works, financing pattern, monitoring and evaluation, and most importantly the detailed measures to ensure transparency and accountability.
Views of the critics of MGNREGA:
The critics claim that the scheme leads to wastefulness and contributes to fiscal deficit of the Government of India.
Views of the proponents of MGNREGA:
Proponents of the scheme enumerate number of benefits. For example, Rejaul Karim Laskar, an ideologue of the Congress party- the largest constituent of the UPA Government which introduced the scheme, claims that the scheme has multifarious benefits including “reduction in poverty, reduction in migration, women empowerment, improvement of productivity of agricultural land and regeneration of water resources”.±
‘Save MGNREGA’ is a set of demands proposed during the joint meeting of the national leadership of CITU, AIAWU, AIDWA and AIKS in New Delhi. The agenda was to discuss the dilution of MGNREGA scheme by the new government. Following demands were proposed:
1. Government of India should increase the Central allocation for the scheme so that number of workdays can be increased to 200 and per day wage can be increased to Rs. 300.
2. Job card to be issued for everyone who demands job, failing which, after 15 days employment benefits should be given.
3. Minimum 150 days of work should be ensured to all card holders
4. Minimum wage act should be strictly implemented. Delay in wage payment should be resolved.
5. MGNREGA should be extended to urban areas.
6. Gram Sabhas should be strengthened to monitor proper implementation of the scheme and also to check corruption.
Legal guarantee for one hundred days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage of Rs. 173 per day prices.