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India’s anti-poverty programme : Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act
conference contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Anita Medhekar, K Roy
The world has recognised India’s commitment to economic liberalisation and globalisation being pursued since 1991 economic crisis. Firstly, it was economic liberalisation and reforms, rather than controls that created a proper atmosphere for economic growth of India and secondly, India cannot afford to overlook and neglect the capacity and capability of its poor, to generate employment, reduce regional imbalance, alleviate poverty and improve the overall standard of living of the poor in the rural-regional, remote areas, hilly and mountainous regions, including the urban poor (CFPR 1983; Cassen and Joshi 1996). It is important to have a diverse basket of industries supporting the employment opportunities in small and medium enterprises (SME), which is essential to harness economic benefits and multiplier effect flowing from employment generation, stimulating socio-economic development and poverty alleviation in an environmentally sustainable manner through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) introduced on the 2nd of February, 2005, and has recently been renamed as Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) on 2nd October, 2009. MGNREGA is a uniquely democratic and transparent anti-poverty employment act, and revolutionary in its promise of inclusive growth, e-governance, right to work, dignity of labour and a rational participatory relationship of the worker with the state (Roy & Dey 2009). Apart from providing livelihood to millions of households since 2006-2007, MGNREGA has become a significant vehicle for promoting good governance and for strengthening grassroots democratic processes and implementing mechanisms that strengthens transparency and accountability at every step of the delivery of program, and for the citizens to raise their voice regarding various problems such as regeneration of India’s depleting natural resource base and directly engage with the state. One of the overarching goal for the developing countries in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to end poverty by 2015, “international fight against underdevelopment, hunger and poverty” (MHDC 2000). Alleviation of Poverty (both economic and institutional) by implementing anti-poverty programmes is a long term goal of Government of India. Poverty alleviation has made some progress in the form of trickle down effect of the growing middle class, increasing stress on education program, reservation of seats in government jobs for the underprivileged, economically weaker members of the society and empowerment of women are some of the various factors which will contribute to alleviating poverty (MHDC 2000; Roy and Blomqvist 2004). MGNREGA, with its ‘Rights Based’ framework, is a paradigm shift from all other past development programmes that were traditionally supply driven, but now the implementation of this law is supported by a Central Government budget based on demand for employment, and the way the citizens engage with the state in a democratic manner. A majority of poor earn their livelihood through unskilled, casual manual labour and exploitation of the natural resource base. This dependence makes them more vulnerable to crises such as, climate change stress, natural disaster, ill-health (e.g. swine flu virus of 2009), all of which adversely impact on their employment opportunities and reduce their ability to move out of the vicious circle of poverty trap. Indian Planning Commission designed programs under MGNREGA, to directly attack poverty to provide self-employment among the poor, provide wage employment during the lean agricultural season, and address minimum needs such as nutrition, health, housing, education sanitation and mortality rate (Dantwala 1985; Hirway 1985; Ravallion 1991a; Tendulkar 1998; Allen & Thomas 1997).This chapter is structured as follows. The first part gives an overview of poverty in India. Second part discusses the Five year plans and various anti-poverty programs implemented by the Indian Government. Part three focuses on Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) under the acts. Part four, discusses the general overall benefits of (MGNREGA) with reference to states and finally some critical discussion and conclusions are provided.