Don’t dismantle, reform

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The MGNREGA is a self-targeting programme that assumes that only those who can’t find better-paying, less-strenuous work will participate in the hard manual labour offered under the act. / Picture from INDIAN EXPRESS


INDIAN EXPRESS | Sonalde Desai | NOVEMBER 12 2015 


One, how well does the self-targeting mechanism work? The MGNREGA is a self-targeting programme that assumes that only those who can’t find better-paying, less-strenuous work will participate in the hard manual labour offered under the act. A recently published report (of which I am principal author) by researchers from the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and the University of Maryland, based on the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) of over 28,000 households before and after the implementation of the MGNREGA, shows that the programme is moderately effective in this. Thirty per cent of poor and 21 per cent of non-poor households participate; and 30 per cent of illiterate households versus 13 per cent of households with college graduates participate. However, it also offers work to a variety of middle-income rural households, such as moderately prosperous farmers who can’t find work during non-harvest periods. Since programmes solely directed at the poor rarely enjoy wide political support, this broad participation may be one reason for its popularity.

Two, does it really reduce poverty? The IHDS shows that among the 24.4 per cent of MGNREGA-participating households, the median number of days worked is 40 and…continue reading

 

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Guarantee the funds

THE HINDU | EDITORIAL | NOVEMBER 7 2015

For a scheme meant to be used by the poorest of the poor in their leanest times, it is unconscionable that the government owes Rs.3,200 crore to beneficiaries of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Yet that is exactly where matters have reached with the ten-year-old scheme, a fact the Supreme Court took notice of earlier this week. The scheme was launched by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in its first term and delays in wage payments preceded the change in government, but matters have come to a head over the last year, resulting in a decline in the number of people participating. The number of households that got the legally guaranteed 100 days of work fell from 51.73 lakh in 2012-13 to 46.73 lakh in 2013-14 (under the UPA), and then dipped sharply to 23.24 lakh in 2014-15 (under the NDA). Funds sanctioned for the scheme show a similar steep decline under the NDA government, from…continue reading