Challenging the lobbies of contractors, influential people and others, to break the nexus around MGNREGA, the women’s collectives of Barethinbahara persevere, amid greatopposition and political muscle, to eventually get the village to work together for its common good and welfare
E ver since its inception in 2005, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has always been the subject of debate over its ineffectiveness, mostly because of rampant corruption in the system. In 2014, the Scheme was publically denounced by the central government and there was serious talk of curtailing the budget for MGNREGA. One of the major arguments raised against it was that MGNREGA had become an inefficient Act and that people were not demanding work from it because the wage rate was much higher in the market and also because the needs of rural India were changing.
However, amidst all these controversies, the women’s collectives of Barethinbahara village of Bhansuli panchayat, Narharpur block, Chhattisgarh, challenged the lobbies of contractors, influential people and others, to break the nexus around MGNREGA. What became clear from their struggle was that the people need MGNREGA not only as a source of work as labourers but also to build quality assets to increase their livelihood portfolios; they want equal opportunities for poorer families to be able to create their asset base.
Barethinbahara is a backward village. More than one-third of the Narharpur block is covered with forest. Barethinbahara is 15 km from the block headquarters and 46 km from the district headquarters in Kanker. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood and the per capita land-holding of the village is about 2.5 acres with 28 per cent of the households (HHs) having scattered land-holding of less than 2.5 acres. Only 30 per cent of the families manage to have round-the-year food sufficiency in the village.