This article deals with ‘MNREGA.’ This is part of our series on ‘Governance’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


  • Government as an employer of the last resort is an idea that has existed since Great Depression in United States.
  • However, MGNREGA takes this policy to a new realm because of its massive reach, universal nature, and its initiation during a period of rapid economic growth.

About Program (prelims)

  • MGNREGA = Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (2005)
  • Under Ministry of Rural Development
  • Provides a legal guarantee for 100 days of employment  to adult member of any rural household willing to do unskilled manual work
  • It is demand driven scheme (not supply driven)
  • Wages are to be paid according to the Minimum Wages Act 1948 for agricultural labourers . Equal wages will be provided to both men and women.
  • 60:40 wage and material ratio has to be maintained ( labour-intensive nature of the scheme)
  • Central Govt pays  100 percent wage cost of manual labour & 75 percent of the material cost
  • Social Audit has to be done by the Gram Sabha (legal provision).

Achievements of MNREGA

  • Revitalization of Rural Labour Markets : Poor workers have got bargaining power to demand higher wages .
  • Women : Women are getting work as right leading to their emancipation  (dealt separately).
  • Sustainable Assets in water harvesting created especially in states like Bihar , Gujarat, Rajasthan etc . This also led to increase in agro productivity .
  • Hundreds of bonded labour (Saheriya Adivasis) in Rajasthan freed from generations of bondage. 
  • MGNREGA has reduced distress migration.
  • Has shown some unintended benefits => Banks account opened by poor workers because wages were paid through  banks (Financial Inclusion).
  • Empowering Gram Panchayats :  act gave gram Sabhas the mandate to plan their own works and untied funds to execute these works. No other scheme has placed funds at this scale (Rs 15 lakh per year on average) directly with Gram Panchayats.
  • MGNREGA has served as an important shock absorber for the rural economy by providing an important relief in times of distress eg distress situation created by drought .


  • Corruption : workers not paid in full or forced to pay bribes to get jobs + ghost workers
  • Poor Quality Infrastructure : Roads and irrigation canals built by unskilled labour  are of very poor quality (₹ 3 trillion spent without tangible outcomes)  .
  • No attempt is made to impart skill among workers.
  • MGNREGA pushed up rural wages without having much of an impact on rural productivity
  • MGNREGA program has been found to distort labour markets
    • Construction companies complain that NREGA has affected the availability of labour  .
    • MGNREGA has contributed to farm labour shortage in states like Punjab & Haryana .

According to some experts whole ideology on which MGNREGA is based is flawed because it is trying to contain migration of labour. As B.R. Ambedkar pointed out nearly a hundred years ago, the real solution to rural distress is to be found in rapid industrialization as well as urbanization. Govt shouldn’t stop  time tested process of migration & instead provide more job facilities in urban centres.

Suggestions to improve

  • MGNREGA should have an intensified focus on marginalised communities in the most backward blocks
  • Emphasis  on skill development  
  • Act should  be linked with the Socio-Economic Caste Census to ensure better targeting. 
  • Fighting corruption through the use of IT and community-based accountability mechanisms
  • Suspend  the NREGA programme during peak farming periods
  • In order  to  create  the  productive  assets,  the  scheme  should  be  converged  with  related  programmes  in the department  of agriculture,  irrigation, animal  husbandry  and  road  transport.

Side Topic : Why  higher  women  participation  in  MGNREGA

Women  participation  in  the  flagship  rural  job  scheme  MGNREGA  has  clocked  around  51%  in financial  year  2015-16. 

  • Wage  differential:  in  informal  sector,  there  is  generally  greater  wage  differential  between man  and  women,  whereas  MGNREGA  provides  equal  wages
  • Work  near  to  home
  • Unskilled  work:  since  work  provided  in  MGNREGA  is  unskilled,  men  who  are  educated  or can  find  work  in  near-by  towns,  does  not  seek  work  and  women  from  household  take  part in  work.
  • Migration:  generally,  men    migrates  to  urban  areas,  leaving  women  behind who  in  turn  go  to  MGNREGA  
  • Work  place  facilities:  MGREGA  says  that  crèche  facility  must  be  made  available  at  worksite
  • Mobilisation  by  Self Help Groups  in  Kerala  and  other  organizations  in  Rajasthan.

This  show  that  if  equal  wages,  better  facilities  at  work,  working  facilities  closer  to  home  are  provided women  take  active  participation  in  work.  

Leave a Comment