MGNREGA never intended to pay workers based on caste

The Government of India amended the payment process for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) earlier this year. Due to this, many MGNREGA workers have faced delays in receiving wages. These delays came at a time when the second wave of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was wreaking havoc across the country.

MGNREGA was started in 2006. Economist and honorary professor at the Delhi School of Economics, Jean Drèze made important contributions to the draft of the scheme. Down to Earth spoke in detail with Drèze. Edited excerpts:

Down To Earth: The government has brought in a new notification for MGNREGA, which classifies workers into Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Others and gives them work and money accordingly. What problems arise and how may this hinder achieving MGNREGA’s basic objective?

Jean Dreze: The notification does not affect the rights of MGNREGA workers, but it creates a multi-track payment system with different payment orders and labour budgets for Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Others.

This is a bizarre complication which serves no clear purpose. As it is, the MGNREGA payment process is too complicated. This is going to make things even more difficult.

— source | Jean Drèze | 10 Aug 2021

Nullius in verba

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