Guarantee Void in MGNREGA: The Crisis In Universal Rural Job Scheme

From being the lifeline of the country’s rural economy whenever it went into distress and subject of political claims and blame, the MGNREGA scheme is facing unusual times, leaving workers and activists worried 

MGNREGA workers’ protest against delay in payments, technical glitches and other issues at Jantar Mantar in Delhi last month. Photos: Suresh K. Pandey

It is 3 pm on a hot April day in the heart of Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. A group of sari-clad women is holding a demonstration to raise the matter of delay in payments, technical glitches leading to payment loss and no work being provided under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme. A social security scheme launched in 2005 by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, it promises to provide 100 days of guaranteed non-skilled employment to every rural household but has run into trouble as demand for work rises among the poor.