The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) came about because of the inadequate reach of government schemes (like the Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana and the Jawahar Rozgar Yojana), which were unable to meet the demand for rural employment. There was persistent unemployment in rural areas – and no social security mechanism for the poor. MGNREGA aims to provide wage employment to poor rural households, strengthen rural livelihoods, and ensure social inclusion.
What does MGNREGA guarantee?Section 3 of the Act guarantees that state governments will set up schemes to provide no less than 100 days of employment in one financial year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. The law also states that the government may make provisions for work over and above the 100-day minimum. If the government is unable to provide work, it must ensure unemployment compensation.
To which geographical areas does the law apply?The Act is applicable only in notified rural areas and does not apply to places under the jurisdiction of an urban body or a cantonment board.
Who is entitled to seek work under this law?Anyone above the age of 18 in a notified rural area can seek work. However, only one person per household is entitled to employment.
What kind of work does a person get under MGNREGA?
MGNREGA guarantees “unskilled manual work” or any physical work that an adult is capable of doing without special skill or training.
What wage is a person entitled to?Every person will receive wages for each day of work. Payments will be made on a weekly or, at the latest, fortnightly basis. While the central government can specify a wage rate, the standard is the minimum wage for agricultural labourers fixed under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. Importantly, MGNREGA specifies that the wages earned cannot be less than Rs. 60 per day.
What happens if an eligible person is not given work?MGNREGA directs that if an eligible person is not given work within 15 days of applying for it, the government must provide him/her with a daily unemployment allowance at a rate prescribed by the state government. However, this rate cannot be less than the minimum specified by the law.
Where will the people seeking employment work?People eligible for employment will work on projects covered by the schemes of their respective states. The Act says that the “works” or projects prioritised will include water conservation and harvesting, drought proofing, irrigation infrastructure, flood control, sanitation and infrastructure. The schemes will also seek to diversify rural employment and encourage people to work in fisheries, sericulture, horticulture and so on.
What does the law say about labour conditions?Schedule 2 lays out the minimum facilities that must be provided to labourers. These facilities include crèches and drinking water. The schedule also mandates the welfare of workers (in particular, compensation for injury) as well as grievance redressal mechanisms.
How is MGNREGA implemented?Gram panchayats are the primary implementation agencies for MGNREGA; they plan and implement the employment schemes. Every eligible person can apply to a gram panchayat for a job card and request work. The gram panchayat is required to provide work within 15 days of the application failing which an unemployment allowance must be given to the applicant.
How are MGNREGA schemes funded and monitored?
Under this Act, the central government has set up the National Employment Guarantee Fund to cover expenses incurred on implementing the law and sanctioning grants to the states and union territories. The state governments, in their turn, have set up the State Employment Guarantee Fund to implement the employment schemes. The Act’s implementation is reviewed and monitored by the Central Employment Guarantee Council at the central level and State Employment Guarantee Councils in all the states.
Focus and Factoids by Rishab Bailey.
Ministry of Law and Justice
Government of India
05 Sep, 2005