You are here: Home People Speak Beyond jobs MGNREGA unleashes assets for excluded communities
Beyond jobs MGNREGA unleashes assets for excluded communities

Mar 15, 2013

The world’s largest work entitlement scheme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) mandates 100 days of work to a rural household in a year. In operation since 2006, the scheme is also bringing about another big change by creating productive assets that build village infrastructure and empower rural communities to have a fighting change against chronic poverty.


A majority of the rural poor and landless communities belong to socially excluded communities and MGNREGA, therefore, is all the more important for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Muslims, women and people with disability. But, a most promising aspect of the scheme is the asset creation that allows these communities to build long-term resources, allowing them to find a foothold to step out of poverty.

This aspect of asset creation and its contribution towards rebuilding agricultural infrastructure has been captured through various data and studies. For instance, a very large proportion (80 per cent) of the works under MGNREGA focus on soil and water on the lands of the small and marginal farmers.

But what does asset creation look like on the ground and what are the potential changes that it can unleash in lives of excluded communities? Stories from the field, gathered as part of a campaign underway in Jharkhand and Bihar since late last year, reveal that change is much more vibrant than what the numbers reveal. MGNREGS is said to be ‘an enactment of the people, by the people and for the people’ but this evocative statement needs community-driven engagement for translation on the ground.

Campaigns become social processes when driven and owned by the community. Stories from the campaign change depending on where one is located or what the viewing angle is. This makes what the perception of change a Meta narrative.
The campaign is being spear-headed by hundreds of community-based organisations through Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) programme, and attempts to harness the potential of the scheme which is arguably a game changer for the excluded social groups – Dalit, tribal and Muslims.

It is doing so by assembling people in the state of Bihar and Jharkhand from villages marked by poverty and communities eager to engage with the entitlements and common assets that it brings along when implemented in its entirety.

Coming to the experiences from the ground, according to the MGNREGA ombudsman in Jharkhand, 90 per cent of works undertaken under the scheme are on creating wells for irrigation. This has made available to farmers from excluded communities water to grow more on their small landholdings. This has had positive impact on food intake and sale of season’s vegetables.

A significant impact of this has been a realisation by the community on the key entitlement of assets and their role in influencing the decisions on works that are taken up. This awareness, in its more engaged form, has also led to discussions and questions on whose land these assets are being built on and who has access to these. The latter aspect holds the answer to the potential for transformation that the scheme has that makes it much more than a desperate lifeline for a hand-to-mouth existence.

(Parvinder Singh is Head of Advocacy and Communications, Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) – a DFID initiative)

Most Read
Most Shared
You May Like






CRFC: Toll free number

Global Goals 2030
OneWorld South Asia Group of Websites