The Human Development Index (HDI) report 2015 released recently by United Nations Development Programme has called National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) a milestone in human development. The report has called the scheme as among the best job guarantee programmes in the world.
The Chapter-6 of the HDI report, dedicated to Enhancing Human Development Through Work, has given special space to India’s national rural job guarantee scheme. The report says, “Evaluations have found that job creation accelerated from less than 1 billion working days among 20 million households in the act’s first year of operation, 2006-07, to 2.5 billion among 50 million households in 2010-11.”
A simulation estimated that India’s GDP would increase 0.02–0.03 percent, labour income would rise about 700 million rupees and that the welfare of the poorest households (as measured by Slutski-adjusted consumption relative to initial consumption) would increase up to 8 percent. People belonging to Scheduled Tribes or Scheduled Castes would also benefit, the report adds.
The MGNREGA was mandated in 2005 by the Congress led UPA government to implement an ambitious, demand-driven employment-creation programme to benefit the rural poor through projects that improve agricultural productivity and alleviate land degradation. It guarantees rural households 100 days of unskilled manual work.
Yet in evaluations, the programme’s impacts are found to be asymmetrical between urban and rural dwellers, men and women, better-off and privileged population groups and more educated versus less educated groups. Its size has no precedent nationally or internationally, posing important design and management challenges.