History's curse on MGNREGA -Nikita Kwatra
Public programs like MGNREGA are less successful in raising wages in regions characterized by historical inequality, finds new study
When it was launched in 2006, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) was envisaged to boost rural economies by providing the rural poor with 100 days of guaranteed public employment and raising rural wages. But its intended benefits may have eluded those who needed them the most, a new study shows.
The study, authored by Kartik Misra of the University of Massachusetts, shows far from addressing regional inequalities, MGNREGA’s effects have fallen victim to historical inequalities in agricultural land ownership. According to Misra, historical patterns of landownership and the concentration of socio-economic power associated with it, determine how decisions to implement MGNREGA are taken and whether workers are successful in enforcing their legal rights under the program.
In areas where land is concentrated in the hands of relatively few large landowners such as districts central and eastern India, where the legacy of the colonial ‘zamindari’ (landlord) system has persisted, rural wage growth was sluggish after MGNREGA’s launch. In contrast, districts in the southern and western parts of the country, where land is more equitably distributed, saw a sharp rise in rural wages after MGNREGA.
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