Nikhil Dey, social activist and founding member of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, interviewed by Civil Society News (

Nikhil Dey, social activist and founding member of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, interviewed by Civil Society News (

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published Published on Jun 29, 2020   modified Modified on Jul 5, 2020

-Civil Society News

As people pour into villages from cities in a desperate effort to get back home, the only work they can hope to get is under MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act).

The rural employment scheme was designed to help people in distressful situations like a flood or drought so that they had something to fall back on when there was nothing else. Will it be able to cope with the pressures of the pandemic and economic slowdown when the number of people seeking work in villages is rising like never before?

The Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) was the lead organization which fought to bring in MGNREGA 15 years ago after Rajasthan was ravaged by drought and people had neither food nor work. Many economists opposed it as a measure to deal with extreme poverty.

But over the years the programme has matured and found wide recognition. Nikhil Dey of the MKSS has been a close observer of this process. Excerpts from an interview with him on what expectations there can be from MGNREGA in these extraordinary times.
* MGNREGA is being perceived as the scheme that will provide jobs to workers who have returned to their villages. Is MGNREGA providing jobs to all?

People are desperate for work but I’d like to preface that by saying that people are still leaving cities in a stream after that huge exodus took place. Parts of India are finally becoming aware of how absolutely vulnerable this section of society is, how insecure their so-called jobs are and what conditions of work and living they undergo. They have been the backbone of the Indian economy, its growth story, which clearly benefits one section of society. Migrating workers had modest dreams of a better life in the city, but they were on a precarious footing.

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Image Courtesy: Civil Society News


Civil Society News, 29 June, 2020,

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