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

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Women at the Crossroads

Implementation of Employment Guarantee Scheme in Rural Tamil Nadu

While the transformation of rural gender inequalities was not an intended goal of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, this study draws on evidence from two villages in western Tamil Nadu to show how the scheme has benefited rural women in particular. Major attractions of the MGNREGA work include local availability through the year, it being perceived as relatively "easy" work with fixed, regular, gender equal wages, and free from caste-based relations of subordination and discrimination. The gendered impacts of MGNREGA are partly due to the universal, right-based and women-friendly nature of the policy, and partly to the specific ways in which this policy is implemented in Tamil Nadu, where it has received significant cross-party political support.

This paper is based on a joint research carried out as part of a British Academy-funded research project entitled “India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme: Livelihoods, Gender and Migration in Tamil Nadu”. The research would not have been possible without the assistance of our research assistants, Ponnarasu and David. The paper has benefi ted from comments by Judith Heyer, Deepta Chopra, Jens Lerche and Reetika Khera as well as participants at the British Association for South Asian Studies, Annual Conference, the School of Oriental and African Studies, 2012 and a MGNREGA workshop at Sussex University, 2012. All shortcomings remain our own.

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