The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) was rolled out across India in 2008. Following positive appraisals of NREGS based on quantitative data (e.g. Uppal 2009), the paper uses individual and group interview and household survey data from adults and children aged 15-16 to explore firstly whether these appraisals are confirmed by children’s accounts of its impact, and secondly whether the evidence from the three villages sub-sampled in the qualitative research suggest its success is sustainable (for example, instances of financial mismanagement, growing resentment among local landlords, etc.). One positive finding is that participation in NREGS is high and largely pro-poor. There are striking examples of individual benefits, intended and unintended, for example, female labourers who no longer accept a daily wage of Rs 40. There may also be significant environmental benefits, although these will not be evident for another three to four years. However, those who only work in the scheme because they are landless have not benefitted as much as expected. The main beneficiaries in the three villages have been individual farmers, often from higher castes, and to some extent administering officials. So while interview and survey data demonstrate beneficial effects, the systemic mismanagement described in the paper is having a corrosive effect on trust and social relationships. This unintended consequence threatens the sustainability of the scheme and its potential to reduce socio-economic inequalities and vulnerability across the life course.
|Young Lives working paper series
|Published - 22 Sep 2012