Rahul Gandhi, Congress MP commented, “When Narendra Modi became PM, he ridiculed Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act saying it was an insult to Indians but the same man was forced during COVID to increase money given under MGNREGA & accepted that it played as a saviour.”
What is MGNREGA?
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act has suffered heavy criticism under the Bharatiya Janata Party. It was disconcerting to hear Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constant belittlement of the MGNREGA program.
MGNREGA was introduced by the Congress government of India in 2005 to target causes of impoverishment and remove its roots by establishing development for all rural sections. MGNREGA is the largest work guarantee-networking program in the world. It has a primary target to secure 100 days of wage employment per year to rural households.
The advantages of the scheme are it allows laborers to live a dignified life and take off their dependence on farmers. Laborers gained valued independence in payments in spite of delayed payments under the NREGA program. It also enabled bargaining power with farmers for higher agricultural wages.
Under MGNREGA, the official website data shows 45% of its constructions done under the provision of rural sanitation. 13% construction of irrigation facilities for Dalit, Adivasi, and other poverty-stricken farmers, 9% land development constructions on poor landowners farms, 11% rural connectivity works, and 7% development of the creation of water conservation and water harvesting structures, mentioned sarcastically earlier by the Prime Minister as “digging ditches.”
On average, laborers work 23 days a year under the MGNREGA, and according to them, the few days they labor under the MGNREGA is more productive than any work they do for the rest of the year. For the remainder of the year, they labor elsewhere, either on construction sites, brick kilns, agricultural labor, or as loaders who carry up to 25 kilograms of goods from trucks and trains, or garbage collectors in urban areas, or vendors of vegetables and so on.
Due to initial difficulties with poor farmers suffering from the program, the scheme through local panchayats has established better avenues to work for both the farmers and laborers. Now, over 20% of all works under the MGNREGA work on an upgraded system to benefit both agricultural laborers as well as poor farmers.
Covid-19 and MGNREGA
The noxious Covid-19 pandemic has heralded a fresh focus on health, prevention, medical care, and sanitization. This opened doors for new employment opportunities in rural India. MGNREGA, the rural employment guarantee program led the way to give good work to medical teams, COVID warriors, and all helpers aiding in fighting the pandemic.
Today, the government of India found the MGNREGA scheme the most workable of all to help in fighting the pandemic in rural India. MGNREGA will provide relief to those whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the pandemic with less dependence on public finances.
In the words of the Congress party who initiated MGNREGA, they stated, “To understand citizens, a leader needs to talk to them, not at them.”