In 2015, the World Bank had called Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) as the world’s largest public works programme. Two years prior to this, in 2013, the organisation had called the programme a stellar example of rural development. Run by Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, that is how MGNREGA scheme has scripted its own story in rural India and got recognised globally. With a provision of giving entitlement of 100 days guaranteed jobs to unskilled rural population, the programme provides livelihood and social security to India’s 31 percent households.
Role of MGNREGA to Boost Rural Economy
The Government of India makes big allocations to MGNREGA yojana. In the Union Budget 2020-21, the Centre allocated Rs 61,500 crore to the scheme. Further, under Aatmanirbhar Bharat package, the Government made an additional allocation of Rs 40,000 crore to fight the unemployment created by COVID-19 pandemic in rural areas. In the past one decade, from the financial year 2011-12 to 2020-21, the Government of India has made an allocation of Rs. 467,632 crore to the scheme. This pubic sector expenditure plays significant role in boosting rural economy and creating demand for goods and services by providing livelihoods to the lower strata of population in the rural areas.
Govt. of India’s Allocation to MGNREGA in Last 10 Years
|Year||(Rupees in crore)|
Source: Union Budgets
The scheme has seen major transformation in recent years. The integration with modern technologies such as ICT tools and space technology have taken the scheme to the next level. Focus on improving livelihood resource base of people, provision of diversified livelihood opportunities through convergent programme implementation are some of the major features of changes brought in the programme management.
In order to ensure that MGNREGA workers receive their wages on time, the Centre has put in place National Electronic Fund Management System (NeFMS). Almost 96 percent of wages are being paid directly to the beneficiaries’ bank accounts through direct benefit transfer (DBT).
Objectives of MGNREGA 2020 (2021)
On the recommendations of National Advisory Council, headed by Sonia Gandhi, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government got National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (NREGA) passed from the Parliament in 2005. The mandate of the the Act is to provide legal right to every rural household — whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work — to ask for at least 100 days of wage employment from the Gram Panchayat in a financial year.
In the first phases, the Act was notified in 200 districts with effect from February 2, 2006. By April 1, 2018, the scheme was extended to the entire country with the exception of districts that have a 100 percent urban population. Due to challenges in its implementation such renaming of the scheme in the states ruled by the political opponents, in 2009, the Government of India brought an amendment and the scheme was named after Mahatma Gandhi and NREGA was rechristened into Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
Strengthening the livelihood resource base of the poor is one of the main objectives of MGNREGA. Apart from meeting the demand for wage employment on the ground, the government is laying stress on strengthening the livelihood resource base of the poor and the vulnerable.
During the journey of 15 years, MGNREGA has become the largest wage employment programme in the world due to its scalability, architecture, implementation and impact. Its bottom-up, people-centred, demand-driven, self-selecting, right-based design is distinct and unprecedented.
MGNREGA scheme is different from previous employment schemes as the old schemes were allocation based while this scheme is demand driven employment scheme. Centre makes allocations as per the employment demand created in the states. This Act empowers states to provide employment to the poorest of the poor and unskilled labour-force in their rural areas.
Empowering Democracy at Grassroot Level
The plans and decisions about the nature and choice of development works are being made in the open assemblies in Gram Sabha (GS) and get ratified by the Gram Panchayats. Works that are inserted at Panchayat Samiti (Block/ Tehsil Panchayat) and Zilla Parishad (District Panchayat) level have to be approved by the Gram Sabha. The Gram Sabha is entitled to accept or reject these works.
The decisions made by the Gram Sabha, an assembly of local residents within the Gram Panchayat, cannot be changed by the higher authorities, except the provisions which are against the operational guidelines of the scheme and the Act.
These works are taken up considering the 261 permissible activities under the scheme, which are revised periodically depending upon the local needs. The Centre safeguards the decisions of the local bodies through its emphasis on creation of “shelf of projects” in the Gram Panchayats and in no way attempts to undermine their authority.
The scheme also marks a break from the relief programmes of the past towards an integrated natural resource management and livelihoods generation perspective.
Achievements of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
The rural job guarantee scheme, MGNREGA has come a long way since its inception and has become a lifeline to the millions of population in rural India since 2006. Social inclusion, gender parity, social security and equitable growth are the founding pillars of MGNREGA.
According to the MGNREGA portal, since the implementation of the programme to the end of December 2020, while benefitting 6.01 crore households in India’s villages, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has generated 216.73 core person-days of wage employment as well as it has created 5.01 crore assets in rural India. Besides, to bring in transparency and effective monitoring of assets created under MGNREGA, 4.23 crore assets have been geo-tagged so far. Status of these geo-tagged assets can be tracked through live satellite imagery from a centralised dashboard by the government. The Ministry of Rural Development has made it mandatory to geo-tag three stages of an asset creation.
MGNREGA Scheme: Achievements at a Glance
|Achievements||Rupees in Crore|
|Total DBT Transactions||28.69|
|Total Geo Tagged Assets||4.23|
Source: MGNREGA portal
Key Features of MGNREGA Yojana
MGNREGA gives legal guarantee of 100 days wage employment to the adult unskilled labour-force in the villages in a financial year. The programme is applicable in all the villages. If an adult member is willing to get job under MGNREGA scheme, he has to get registered at the Gram Panchayat level and a get a job card within 15 days of registration.
Eligibility for MGNREGA Scheme
The MGNREGA yojana is open to all rural households in the villages across India. All adult members of a household who are registered can apply for work. To register, they have to be the local residents within the Gram Panchayat. He will be willing to do unskilled manual work. The applicant can apply as a member of a household rather than making individual application as the 100 days entitlement of of wage employment can be shared within the household.
Know about MGNREGA Job Card
Under the MGNREGA, the job card is the basic legal document, gives the registered household a legal right to ask for 100 days job in a financial year from the Gram Panchayat. The household job card is issued within 15 days of making application which contains name and photograph of the registered member.
Since the inception of the scheme, 28.87 crore job cards have been issues to the workers. Out of them, 13.62 crore workers are currently taking benefits of wage employment under the scheme. Rest of them have quit their job demand.
Verification process under MGNREGA
In order to authenticate the job card application, the Gram Panchayat verifies whether
the applicant is the resident in that village and he or she is an adult. Once the verification is conducted, the Gram Panchayat issues a Job Card to the household.
Activities Covered Under MGNREGA Yojana
In the beginning, the programme had impetus only on creating jobs for unskilled rural labour-force. Later on, while creating jobs, the impetus of the scheme was shifted towards sustainable asset creation in the villages and integrating them with agriculture sector, particularly natural resource management (NRM) and water conservation for irrigation. Today, the programme has 261 permissible works, out of them, 164 types of works are relating to agriculture and allied activities. Rest are focussing on proving road connectivity, tree plantation and development works in the villages.
Focussing on water conservation, MGNREGA has become the main force that is driving water conservation efforts across rural India. The scheme has now evolved from being merely a mitigator of rural distress into focused campaign to raise rural incomes through natural resource management (NRM) works. In 2014, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government brought an amendment to MGNREGA Schedule-I which mandates that at least 60 percent expenditure would be made on agriculture and allied activities. Consequently, a list of permissible works under the Act now has nearly 75 percent activities that directly improve the water security and water conservation efforts.
The NRM works are focused on ensuring higher incomes to farmers by improving both the area under cultivation and yield of crops. This is done by improving the productivity of land and increasing the water availability. The major works taken up under NRM include check dams, ponds, renovation of traditional water bodies, land development, embankment of rivers, farm bunds, farm channels, tree plantations, field contour trenches among various other water conservation activities. It focuses on creating productive assets to improve farm productivity and incomes.