The National Rural Employment Act (NREGA), later renamed as Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA), is regarded as the Indian labour law and social security measure that targets to guarantee people of India the ‘right to work.’ MGNREGA was enacted in September 2005. The above Act was presented by Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, Minister of Rural Development and was enacted by Parliament of India. According to MGNREGA, the Act “ aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work”.
History and Significance of MGNREGA
In 1991, the Act was proposed by the then Prime Minister of India P.V. Narasimha Rao. After several sessions, the act was finally accepted in the Parliament and implementation started in 625 districts of India. On the basis of this primary experience, NREGA was introduced in all the districts from 01st April, 2008. The Govt of India termed the act as “the largest and most ambitious social security and public works programme in the world.” World Bank coined the term ‘stellar example of rural development’ regarding the MGNREGA.
Objectives of NREGA
1. To enrich livelihood security in rural areas by giving at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to all the households whose members aged above 18 years volunteer to do unskilled manual work
2. To flourish durable assets like roads, canals, ponds and wells
3. It is required to provide employment within 5 km of an applicant’s home and to pay minimum wage. If the applicant does not get any work within 15 days of applying, an unemployment allowance will be given to them. Moreover, if Govt fails to provide employment, it is bound to give certain unemployment allowances to the people. Hence, it is a legal entitlement to be employed under MGNREGA.
Implementation of MGNREGA
Generally Gram Panchayats (GPs) implement the programmes under MGNREGA. The engagement of contractors/middlemen is strictly prohibited in the programme. NREGA not only provides economic security and rural assets but also helps in protecting the environment, empowering rural women, reducing rural-urban migration, fostering social equity etc. The principles and agencies for execution, list of allowed works, financing pattern, monitoring and evaluation and quintessentially the detailed measures to ensure transparency and accountability are elaborately described in the act.
Women empowerment is one of the greatest aspects in MGNREGA programme. In the programme, one-third of all employment is reserved for the women and there is a provision of equal wage between the men and women. It is also a very good opportunity for the youths of our country. Another merit of MGNREGA is that it develops the bargaining power of labour who often suffers due to exploitative market conditions.
Despite several controversies, MGNREGA can be termed as the best scheme for rural people of India. Thousands of rural people survive their day to day life because of this scheme. One of the major impacts of this scheme is the reduction of migration from rural sector to the urban sector for causal work. MGNREGA not only creates job opportunity but also sustains it.