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

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Rural Employment Scenario in North East India

From 1991 to the Post-MGNREGA Period

Agrarian distress and rural unemployment have always been concerns in India. After the 1991 reforms, the government made inclusive growth the theme of development and undertook policy initiatives to boost rural employment. One such initiative, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005, aims to provide landless labourers and marginal farmers work in the lean season and, thus, income. It seems to have succeeded, although it has not created new jobs in general.

This article is developed from a paper presented at the 57th Annual Conference of the Indian Society of Labour Economics held during 10–12 October 2015 at the Central University of Kashmir, Srinagar. The author thanks the anonymous reviewer of this journal for valuable insights and helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.

In most developing countries, employment generation, especially in rural areas, has traditionally occupied an important place in the policy syllabus, and agriculture has generated productive income and employment for the bulk of the rural masses. Recently, however, in India, agriculture seems to have exhausted its potential in augmenting income and employment for most rural people. Demographic pressure and the exhaustion of cereal-based agriculture have led to diversification in agriculture from cereals to cash cropping and livestock. Rural occupations range from agricultural and non-agricultural activities in the secondary and service sectors. Large and medium producers, and small and marginal ones, work as wage labourers, salaried workers, or are self-employed.

Since independence in 1947, rural employment has been affected by agrarian distress, rural poverty, inequality, and unemployment. The post-1991 reforms in India led to growth but also to setbacks in the agrarian and rural economy, especially a decline in rural employment (Chadha and Sahu 2002; Sundaram 2001; Chadha 2001; Bhaumik 2003, 2007; Ghosh 1995; Himanshu 2011). New terms and concepts for expressing India’s growth story, like predatory growth and jobless growth, are now common in academic debates and discussions.

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Updated On : 17th May, 2019
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