Empowering the marginalized: Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in India
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Social protection programs have been an important part of development process and planning in India since its Independence. However, after sixty-five years, around one-fourth of its population lives in poverty. Despite a plethora of social protection programs, vulnerable groups among the poor have not been well targeted. However, the recent paradigm shift towards rights-based legislations may have hit the right chord with its self-targeting mechanism. The Right to Work, or the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) provided employment to almost 55 million households and spending nearly 8 billion US dollars in April 2010–March 2011. Participation of women and socially backward groups has been exceptionally high. This paper analyzes the policy provisions, implementation and monitoring mechanism of MGNEGA to argue that policy designs with legal enforceable mechanisms and collaborative governance systems can lead to empowerment of the marginalized sections.
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