ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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MGNREGA as Distribution of Dole

According to the evidence presented in the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and studies elsewhere, 11 years of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act have not been able to make much of a dent in rural poverty. This article also suggests some innovative ways to help improve the outcome of the scheme.

Views expressed in this article are strictly personal.The author gratefully acknowledges the anonymous reviewer whose comments have been taken into consideration while revising the article.

It is now 11 years since the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) was enacted by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to eliminate poverty in India. While the Congress party as well as a section of economists believe that it has benefited millions and was responsible for bringing the party to power for the second consecutive time in 2009, many economists have accused it of draining our precious resources without getting concomitant benefits. Though the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had criticised MGNREGA as “a living monument” of the failure of the UPA government because of which even “after 60 years of Independence, people had to dig pits,” considerations of realpolitik seem to have twisted the thinking of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The programme’s 10th anniversary in 2016 was celebrated by the NDA government and the Congress alike with a great deal of fanfare and with both claiming credit for its successful implementation.

The country is still recovering from two successive droughts and MGNREGA can justifiably relieve rural distress to some extent. Undoubtedly it also provides valuable rural employment during seasons when there is little farm-based activity. But the moot question is, does it end the poverty of those it employs? Does it empower them with education, health and employable skills, a combination of which can alone lift them above poverty? The available evidence suggests otherwise—that it only helps the poor to subsist at a level below the poverty line (BPL) and that the intended benefits do not always reach them.

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Updated On : 11th Jul, 2017
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