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According to a study carried out by Azim Premji University in four states (Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh), the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) stepped in to alleviate the income loss caused by the Covid-19 lockdown, covering anywhere from 20% to 80% of the shortfall. Despite its assistance, nearly 39% of households surveyed struggled without any work opportunities throughout the challenging Covid-19 year, primarily because there weren’t enough projects sanctioned or available.


MGNREGA, launched by the Ministry of Rural Development in 2005, stands as one of the largest work guarantee programs globally. Its core aim is to ensure that every rural household has access to 100 days of employment each financial year for adults willing to undertake unskilled manual work. As of the 2022-23 period, there are approximately 15.4 crore active workers benefiting from the MGNREGA, highlighting its significant impact on livelihoods across rural India.

Aim of MGNREGA Act

This initiative strives to improve the stability of families living in rural areas by ensuring that every household whose adult members are willing to participate in manual labor is provided with a minimum of 100 days of guaranteed wage employment per year.


  • Right to Work for Everyone: The law ensures that adults from rural households have the legal right to employment opportunities.
  • Empowerment of Women: A significant portion, at least one-third, of those benefiting from employment opportunities must be women. Additionally, women must receive wages in accordance with the rates specified for agricultural laborers in the state, as per the Minimum Wages Act of 1948.
  • Guaranteed Employment within Timeframe: Employment must be provided within 15 days of request; otherwise, individuals are entitled to receive an ‘unemployment allowance‘.
  • Localized Planning: Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) hold primary responsibility for planning, executing, and monitoring the undertaken works.
  • Transparent and Accountable Process: Provisions are in place to ensure transparency and accountability through various means such as wall writings, Citizen Information Boards, Management Information Systems, and social audits conducted by Gram Sabhas.


  • This program aims to help rural folks find work and ensure a decent living for those living in the countryside.
  • The inclusivity is striking, as it draws in numerous women, individuals from Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Teams (STs), and other marginalized groups who have historically been excluded from participation.
  • By paying fair wages in rural areas, it gives the local economy a boost and helps build important infrastructure.
  • One cool thing about it is how it helps save water. Over the past 15 years, we’ve helped create approximately three crore water-related assets, potentially saving more than 2,800 crore cubic meters of water.


  • Workers are losing interest due to low wages, allowing contractors and middlemen to dominate.
  • Many states face budget shortages because the central government hasn’t allocated enough funds, impacting work during peak seasons.
  • Corruption and irregularities mean beneficiaries receive far less than intended under welfare schemes.
  • Discrimination against women and marginalized groups is widespread, with many cases going unreported.
  • Lack of awareness, especially among women, hampers access to benefits from the scheme.
  • Poor infrastructure development due to inadequate surveillance and resources results in substandard assets.
  • Although MGNREGA boosts rural incomes, workers struggle to save due to non-purposeful spending patterns.

    Issues Associated with Implementation of Scheme

    • Many states are failing to pay workers within the mandated 15-day period under MGNREGA, leading to a loss of interest among workers due to lack of timely compensation for their labor.
    • Significant delays in wage payments vary by caste, with SC and ST workers experiencing better adherence to the seven-day payment mandate compared to non-SC/ST workers.
    • Gram panchayats lack sufficient autonomy to effectively implement MGNREGA, limiting their ability to ensure its success at the grassroots level.
    • Many MGNREGA projects face delays in completion, irregular inspections, and concerns about the quality of work and assets created under the scheme.
    • Problems such as the presence of fake job cards, inclusion of fictitious names, missing entries, and delays in updating job card information persist, undermining the effectiveness of MGNREGA.

    Read Also: The Pursuit of Urban Employment: A Fragmented Journey

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