2013 | 23 | 1 | 91-104
Article title

Empowering the marginalized: Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in India

Title variants
Languages of publication
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.
Physical description
  • [1] Aakella, K.V., Kidambi, S. (2007). Challenging Corruption with Social Audits. Economic and Political Weekly 42(5), 345–7.
  • [2] Azam, M. (2011). The Impact of Indian Job Guarantee Scheme on Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from a Natural Experiment. Social Science Research Network, SSRN. RN. Retrieved online from
  • [3] Chatterjee, B. (2010). Political Theory and Citizen Discourses: Cast(e) in Periphery: Understanding Representation of Dalit Women and Politics in India. Asien 114–115, 50–67.
  • [4] Corbridge, S. (2000). Competing Inequalities: The Scheduled Tribes and the Reservations System in India’s Jharkhand. The Journal of Asian Studies 59(1), 62–85.[Crossref]
  • [5] Dev, M. (2006). Policies and Programmes for Employment. Economic and Political Weekly 41(16), 1511–1516.
  • [6] Dev, M. (2011). NREGS and Child Protection. Working Paper. Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR).
  • [7] Dreze, J. (1990). Poverty in India and IRDP Delusion. Economic and Political Weekly 25(39), A95–A104.
  • [8] Dreze, J., Khera, R. (2009, January 3–16). The Battle for Employment Guarantee. Frontline 16(1). Retrieved from
  • [9] Dreze, J., Sen, A. K. (2002). Democratic Practice and Social Inequality in India. Journal of Asian and African Studies 37(2), 6–37.[Crossref]
  • [10] Florin, P., Wandersman, A. (1990). An Introduction to Citizen Participation, Voluntary Organizations, and Community Development: Insights for Empowerment through Research. American Journal of Community Psychology 18(1), 41–54.[Crossref]
  • [11] Goetz, A. Jenkins, R. (2007). Citizen Activism and Public Accountability: Lessons from Case Studies in India. In A. Ebrahim and E. Weisband (Eds.). Global Accountabilities: Participation, Pluralism and Public Ethics, pp. 65–86. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.[Crossref]
  • [12] Gopal, K. S. (2009). NREGA Social Audit: Myths and Reality. Economic and Political Weekly, 44(3), 70–71.
  • [13] Government of India, Ministry of Rural Development. (2008). NREGA Operational Guidelines. Third Edition. Government of India, India. Retrieved from
  • [14] Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs. (2011) Annual Report 2010–11. Retrieved from
  • [15] Jandu, N. (2008). Employment Guarantee and Women’s Empowerment in Rural India. Retrieved from
  • [16] Jose, S. (2007). Women, Paid Work, and Empowerment in India: A Review of Evidence and Issues. Centre for Women’s Development Studies. Retrieved from
  • [17] Joshi, A. (2010). Do Rights Work? Law, Activism, and the Employment Guarantee Scheme. World Development 38(4), 620–630.[Crossref]
  • [18] Joshi, V., Singh, S., Joshi, K.N. (2008). Evaluation of NREGA in Rajasthan. Institute of Development Studies. Jaipur, India.
  • [19] Kabeer, N., Cook, S. (2010). Introduction: Overcoming Barriers to the Extension of Social Protection: Lessons from the Asia Region. IDS Bulletin 41(4), 1–11.[Crossref]
  • [20] Keller, B., Mbwewe, D. C. (1991). Policy and Planning for the Empowerment of Zambia’s Women Farmers. Canadian Journal of Development Studies 12(1), 75–8.[Crossref]
  • [21] Khera, R. (2011). Trends in Diversion of PDS Grain. Working Paper No. 198. Centre for Development Economics, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi.
  • [22] Khera, R., Nayak, N. (2009). Women Workers and Perceptions of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in India. Economic and Political Weekly 44(43), 49–57.
  • [23] Koopmans, R. (1999). Political. Opportunity. Structure. Some Splitting to Balance the Lumping. Sociological Forum 14(1), 93–105.[Crossref]
  • [24] Kurian, N.J. (2007). Widening Economic and Social Disparities: Implications for India. Indian Journal of Medical Research 126, 374–380.
  • [25] Lanjouw, P., Murgai, R. (2009). Poverty Decline, Agricultural Wages, and Nonfarm Employment in Rural India: 1983–2004. Agricultural Economics 40(2), 243–263.[Crossref]
  • [26] Laverack, G., Wallerstein, N. (2001). Measuring Community Empowerment: A Fresh Look at Organizational Domains. Health Promotion International 16(2), 179–185.[Crossref]
  • [27] Mangubhai, J., Irudayam, A.S., Sydenhan, E. (2009). Dalit Women’s Right to Political Participation in Rural Panchayati Raj: A Study of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu: Executive Summary. IDEAS, Tamil Nadu. Retrieved from
  • [28] Mathew, G. (2003) Panchayati Raj Institutions and Human Rights in India. Economic and Political Weekly 38(2), 155–162.
  • [29] McWhirter, E. H. (1991). Empowerment in Counseling. Journal of Counseling and Development 69(3), 222–27.[Crossref]
  • [30] Moore, M. (2001). Empowerment at last? Journal of International Development 13(3), 32–329[Crossref]
  • [31] Nambiar, N. (2001). Making the Gram Sabha Work. Economic and Political Weekly 36(33), 3114–3117.
  • [32] Narayana, N.S.S., Parikh, K.S., Srinivasan, T.N. (1988). Rural Works Programs in India: Costs and Benefits. Journal of Development Economics 29(2), 131–156.[Crossref]
  • [33] Pattenden, J. (2011). Social Protection and Class Relations: Evidence from Scheduled Caste Women’s Associations in Rural South India. Development and Change 42(2), 469–498.[Crossref]
  • [34] Perkins, D. D., Zimmerman, M. A. (1995). Empowerment Theory, Research, and Application. American Journal of Community Psychology 23(5), 569–579.[Crossref]
  • [35] Pankaj, A., Tankha, R. (2009). Women’s Empowerment through Guaranteed Employment: A Case Study of NREGA implementation in Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, and Himachal Pradesh. Institute for Human Development, New Delhi.
  • [36] Pankaj, A., Tankha, R. (2010). Empowerment Effects of the NREGS on Women Workers: A Study in Four States. Economic and Political Weekly 45(30), 45–55.
  • [37] Priyadarshee, A., Hossian, F. (2010). Decentralization, Service Delivery and People’s Perspectives: Empirical Observations on Selected Social Protection Programs in India. International Journal of Public Administration 33(12), 752–66.[Crossref]
  • [38] Reddy, D. N., Tankha, R., Upendranadh, C., Sharma, A.N. (2010). National Rural Employment Guarantee as Social Protection. IDS Bulletin 41(4), 63–76.[Crossref]
  • [39] Rowlands, J. (1995). Empowerment Examined. Development in Practice 5(2), 101–107.[Crossref]
  • [40] Sabates-Wheeler, R., Devereux, S. (2007). Social Protection for Transformation. IDS Bulletin 38(3), 23–28.[Crossref]
  • [41] Sabates-Wheeler, R., Kabeer, N. (2003). Gender Equality and the Extension of Social Protection. ESS Paper 16, Geneva: ILO, Social Security Policy and Development Branch.
  • [42] Samji, S., Aiyar, Y. (2009). Transparency and Accountability in NREGA: A Case Study of Andhra Pradesh. Accountability Initiative. Working Paper No.1. Retrieved from
  • [43] Sen, A. (1982). Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • [44] Sen, A. (1999). Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • [45] Shariff, A. (2009). Assessment of Outreach and Benefits of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme of India. The Indian Journal of Labour Economics 52(2), 243–268.
  • [46] Shankar, S., Gaiha, R., Jha, R. (2010). Information and Corruption: The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in India. ASARC Working Papers. Australian National University, Australia South Asia Research Centre.
  • [47] Sharma, A. (2009). NCAER-PIF Study on Evaluating Performance of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. National Council of Applied Economic Research, Public Interest Foundation. New Delhi, India.
  • [48] Singh, R., Vutukuru, V. (2010). Enhancing Accountability in Public Service Delivery through Social Audits: A Case Study of Andhra Pradesh, India. Accountability Initiative, New Delhi.
  • [49] Srivastava, N., Srivastava, R. (2010). Women, Work, and Employment Outcomes in Rural India. Economic and Political Weekly 45(10), 49–63.
  • [50] Sudarshan, R. M., Bhattacharya, R., Fernandez, G. (2010). Women’s Participation in the NREGA: Some Observations from Fieldwork in Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Rajasthan. IDS Bulletin 41(4), 77–83.[Crossref]
  • [51] Thorat, S. (2002). Oppression and Denial: Dalit Discrimination in the 1990s. Economic and Political Weekly 37(6), 572–578.
  • [52] Vanaik, A. (2008). NREGA and Death of Tapas Soren. Economic and Political Weekly 43(30), 8–10.
  • [53] Vij, N. (2011). Collaborative Governance: Analyzing Social Audits in MGNREGA in India. IDS Bulletin 42(6), 28–34.[Crossref]
  • [54] Vrablikova, K. (2011). Non-Electoral Political Participation, Mobilization and Political Opportunity Structure in Western Democracies. Social Science Research Network, SSRN. Retrieved from
  • [55] Yesudian, C. A. K. (2007). Poverty Alleviation Programmes in India: A Social Audit. Indian Journal of Medical Research 126(4), 364–73.
  • [56] Zimmerman, M. A. (1995). Psychological Empowerment: Issues and illustrations. American Journal of Community Psychology 23(5), 581–599.[Crossref]
Document Type
Publication order reference
YADDA identifier
JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.