10 years of MNREGA: an evaluation

MGNREGA since inception

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) was for the 1st time notified on an experimental basis in February 2006 in  200 odd districts across the country - exactly 10 years ago. The event marked a watershed in the right-based entitlement framework of the country and for the 1st time provided a legal guarantee for wage employment.

Considered as one of the biggest social welfare programmes in the world, this programme aims at generating 100 days of work in rural areas. The provisions made MGNREGA one of the best wages for work programme for rural poor and within no time, its reach was expanded to cover almost the entire country barring few 100% urban centres.

In the last 10 years, the programme has lifted lakhs of people out of poverty, though many lacunas still exist in it. The present government which initially showed little hostility towards this programme has now however hailed the decade of completion of this scheme as a cause for national pride and celebration.

As the scheme completes 10 years, a longer lifespan than most rural development schemes, it is an opportune moment to review the programme. 

Success of MGNREGA :-

1. Reduced the distress in agriculture & economy due low agricultural productivity & small land-holding size thus provided them better livelihood opportunities.

2. Most of MGREGA work is directed towards building irrigation canals, tanks etc. thus provides resources base for further rural development.

3. It has reduced rural distress & intensive urban migration.

4. The provisions like work upto 5 km from home, equal wages promotes women empowerment, gender parity & directed towards backward section of society.

5. The programme has generated over 1,980 crore person-days. In the short span of 10 years that the Act has been in existence, it has generated 19.86 billion person-days of employment benefitting 276 million workers, with more than half the jobs going to women workers and almost a 3rd to members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. 

6.It has resulted into social upliftment for all sections including SC/ST. The percentage of Scheduled Caste workers benefitted under the scheme has consistently been about 20% and of Scheduled Tribe workers has been about 17%.

7. The legislation has reduced distress migration in traditionally migration-intensive areas. 

8. MGNREGA has played a much larger role in revitalizing the labour market in rural areas. Not only has it led to the creation of a class of workers who are using the MGNREGA as a safety net, but these workers are also able to use it as a bargaining tool for extraction of higher wages. 

Challenges Faced:-

1.Corruption, leakages & inordinate delay of wages.

2. Uneven implementation across states.

3. The average work days generated is much less than stipulated 100 days.

4. Low funds available with the government.

5. Poor asset quality created as a part of the programme.

6. The reports have found rampant corruption and swindling of public funds which raises doubt on the amount of money spent and the scheme's claim of improving rural wages.


Though the achievements of the programme in terms of its impact on rural demand, political participation, women's empowerment and improvement in rural infrastructure are hard to quantify, these have been crucial in sustaining the demand for the programme. MGNREGA has been a strong pillar on which the foundation of rural prosperity of the last decade has been based.

MGNREGA has stood on its promise of inclusive growth, right to work and dignity of labour, which has been vindicated by the people's mandate. 

The government should focus on simplification and strengthening of procedures for the effective implementation of MGNREGA. Lessons can be learnt from betterly governed States, from creating improved financial management systems to using technology-enabled banking solutions like smart cards, social audits and building grievance redressal systems. The focus should  be on evaluating these experiments and drawing lessons to improve administration in the poorly governed States.

Corruption should be dealt harshly, but cutting funds to development programmes is definitely not a plausible solution. Corruption can be fought through the use of IT and community-based accountability mechanisms like social audits. 

It should have an intensified focus on marginalised communities in the most backward blocks and on skill development of households that have completed 100 days (about 8% of the total). In addition, the act can be linked with the Socio-Economic Caste Census to ensure better targeting.

It is also time to review the basis for determining wage rates. But most of all, what the MGNREGA requires is consistency in political support.