On 23rd August 2005, the Government of India launched a scheme that would prove to be one of the most sophisticated moves the then leadership would make. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (later renamed as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employee Guarantee Act) was passed to guarantee the citizens their “Right to Work”.What would later prove to be a major success in the field of rural employment, the bill was one a lot of people were apprehensive of. India is a country where even the smartest of engineers are unemployed, and the conditions in rural areas are worse. This is a direct consequence of poor job security, availability, and restrictive labor laws. But the MGNREGA aims to eradicate this lineage of poverty.
The act was first proposed in 1991 by our then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. After thorough scrutiny of the program, it was finally launched in 2005, covering 625 districts of India. The statute was praised as”the largest and most ambitious social security and public works program in the world”.In its World Development Report of 2014, the World Bank applauded it as a “stellar example of rural development”.But why was this scheme needed? According to tons of surveys and reports by the various governments of India, between 1980 and 2005, the number of unemployed persons in India steadily increased from around 7.8 million in 1983 to 12.3 million in 2004–5. Not only this, but several media organizations claim that “there is unanimity amongst scholars that the organized manufacturing sector [in India] registered “jobless growth” during 1980-81 to 1990-91”. Such deplorable conditions of our workers were sought to be amended by this act.
Objectives of the program
The key objective of the program is increasing the working days of a daily-wage worker to at least 100 per year, to one or more members of a family, willing to do unskilled work. In its early years, NREGA was claimed to be “making a difference to the lives of the rural poor, slowly but surely.”
Improving the negotiating power of labor who were incessantly exploited was one of the major objectives of the program. The key benefit of the scheme hangs on the reduction of wage volatility.
Another important aim of the program is parity between men and women working similar jobs. This highlights the importance of women’s empowerment through paid jobs and entitled compensations.
Another problem faced is that of water shortage in rural India. With water bodies shrinking, the sources of irrigation for farmers seem to be depleting. In a report covering the timeline of the last decade, it was found that almost half of the funds were directed towards solving this critical problem. Our country relies on agriculture for a large part of its economy, and any hindrance to its fruitful growth could simply not be tolerated.
Achievements of the program so far
Some of the many achievements of MGNREGA include providing a standard livelihood to the women of India, employing the people critically affected by Demonetization and GST, and benefitting the agricultural sector immensely.According to the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), this scheme has played a vital role in reducing poverty among the poor as well as the socially weaker sections (Dalits, tribals, and marginal farmers).
This program has indeed proved to be a boon for the Indian youth and is the epitome of the fine implementation ability of our democracy.