Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (or, NREGA later renamed as the “Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act” or MGNREGA), is an Indian labor law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the ‘right to work’. This act was passed in 23 August 2005 under the UPA government of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.
It aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. The act was first proposed in 1991 by P.V. Narasimha Rao. It was finally accepted in the parliament and commenced implementation in 625 districts of India. Based on this pilot experience, NREGA was scoped up to cover all the districts of India from 1 April 2008. The statute was praised by the government as “the largest and most ambitious social security and public works programme in the world”. In its World Development Report 2014, the World Bank termed it as a “stellar example of rural development”.
The MGNREGA was initiated with the objective of “enhancing livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year, to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work”. Another aim of MGNREGA is to create durable assets (such as roads, canals, ponds and wells). Employment is to be provided within 5 km of an applicant’s residence, and minimum wages are to be paid. If work is not provided within 15 days of applying, applicants are entitled to an unemployment allowance. That is, if the government fails to provide employment, it has to provide certain unemployment allowances to those people. Thus, employment under MGNREGA is a legal entitlement.
MGNREGA is to be implemented mainly by gram panchayats (GPs). The involvement of contractors is banned. Apart from providing economic security and creating rural assets, other things said to promote NREGA are that it can help in protecting the environment, empowering rural women, reducing rural-urban migration and fostering social equity, among others.”