Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA)
What is Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act?
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (NREGA) is a social security scheme that aims at providing employment and livelihood to rural labourers in the country. In an endeavor to make overall and inclusive development a reality, the NREGA was passed as law and implemented across 200 districts in 2006. By 2008, the scheme was implemented across the country. Under the scheme, any adult who registers for rural employment will get a minimum job guarantee of 100 days each financial year. It was later renamed the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). If a person does not get employment within 15 days of registration, he/she becomes eligible for an unemployment allowance.
The implementation of MGNREGA was left to Gram Panchayats.Government incurred expenditure of INR 289817.04 crores towards the scheme since its inception and as of June 2015, 68, 26,921 workers are employed on 2, 61,942 worksites. Initially the minimum wages determined by the government were INR 100 a day but later it was revised in keeping with the state labor employment conventions. Now states determine the minimum wages and range between INR 163 in Bihar to INR 500 in Kerala. But over the years, the scheme has been at the receiving end of criticism. According to the critics, the benefits of the scheme were not reaching the poor and it was corruption-ridden.
NaMo’s Take on the MGNREGA
Modi-led NDA government does not see the scheme in a good light. The prime minister himself is the greatest critics of the scheme and ever since the Modi-led NDA government came to the power, there has been considerable uncertainty regarding the scheme. BJP considers MNREGA as a living example of Congress failure. There is no denying to the fact that the scheme has been corruption-ridden and the benefits could not completely reach the poor, but it has positively impacted the lives of many people as well. The International Food Policy Research Institute’s Global Hunger Index, for instance, has cited the scheme and its benefits for the poor as the main cause for the decrease in underweight children (under five years) in the country. There were only about 30 per cent underweight children in 2014 vis-à-vis 43.7 percent in 2005, according to news reports.
Social Security and MGNREGA Scorecard
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the NDA government have shown great interest in social security. Government has launched several schemes like Jan DhanYojana which aims at inclusive financial growth. The low-cost Atal Pension Yojana and the life and accident insurance schemes launched by the government shows that the administration is focusing on overall development and giving due importance to the interests of lower income groups. MNREGA can flourish and attain its objectives if it is linked with these schemes launched by the NDA government.
Are Reforms on the Cards?
In 2015, PM Modi tried to restrict the scope of MGNREGA and attempted to retain the scheme in only about 200 districts, which were the poorest in the country. The PM’s decision met with mass criticism and leading economists of the nation criticized the move. Massive criticism was based on the logic that the scheme is a well-defined security net for many families and without which they would perish in abject poverty.
If implemented properly, schemes like MGNREGA can bring about substantial changes in the lives of the people and greatly benefit the people belonging to lower echelons of society.