Monday, 8 February 2016

The economics of the MGNREGS

Ten years after it was launched, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), which promises 100 days of employment to every rural household, is back in the news. More people in rural India are seeking employment through the programme across the country, with job numbers scaling a five-year peak

Although the MGNREGS seems to be reaching many more rural households than before, urban opinion on the programme is sharply divided, both in the mainstream and social media. Even the Narendra Modi government seems divided on the programme, with the ministry of rural development declaring that the 10th anniversary of the programme was a matter of "National Pride" barely a year after Modi had derided the programme as a ditch-digging exercise on the floor of Parliament.

Academic opinion on the MGNREGS, however, appears far more favourable than is evident from the public discourse on the issue. A growing body of research on the MGNREGS suggests that it has helped dent poverty, reduced distress migration and raised the bargaining power of rural labourers, especially among lower castes and women, the biggest beneficiaries of the programme.

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