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

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How Has MGNREGA Fared?

How Has MGNREGA Fared?

Inclusive Development through Guaranteed Employment: India’s MGNREGA Experiences by Ashok Pankaj, Singapore: Springer, 2023; pp 313, $99.

India’s rural employment guarantee scheme, generally referred to by its unpronounceable acronym MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), is one of the largest-ever efforts to systematically assure access to employment through public action. With five crore participating households and accounting at its peak for over 0.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) and almost 4% of government expenditure, it dwarfs most other policies of this type around the world. Of course, this is not a new idea. The use of public works programmes as a means to reduce poverty and unemployment, or to distribute incomes in times of famine or natural disaster, has a long history, in India and elsewhere. This policy instrument was widely used both in ancient empires and during the colonial period.

After independence, it was an important part of Indira Gandhi’s 20-point programme to eliminate poverty in the early 1970s. Later in that decade, the Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Scheme changed the underlying premise from one of emergency relief to one of the right to employment, with the obligation of the state to satisfy that right. But that too was not new. The notion of the right to work has a venerable history. It is a key element of Gandhian philosophy, it is addressed in the Indian Constitution, and it is included in the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

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Updated On : 14th Feb, 2024
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