Moving from the policies of a welfare state to the participatory processes of MGNREGA and other poverty alleviation programmes has inspired greater ownership and a more vibrant involvement of the poor and the marginalized in the development of their own villages
I ndia is known as the largest democracy in the world. When we consider its demographic and socio-economic composition, we find that the rural population still accounts for more than 70 per cent of the total population. And, so far, the effective means of governance has been to serve the poor and the marginalized with policies of a welfare state. However, there is a visible change in approach in the past decade or so. Emphasis has been placed on ‘inclusion’ of larger sets of people in the decision-making, monitoring and reviewing processes, and making them responsible and accountable.
This article focusses on the democratic participatory approach adopted in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the visible changes brought about by it in the tribal district of Betul in Madhya Pradesh, where PRADAN is active. MGNREGA came into existence when it was notified as an Act of Parliament on 7 September 2005. The objective of MGNREGA is, “to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of statutory guarantee of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”
It also aims at providing employment near their place of habitat. It is for the first time that wage employment has been guaranteed and an attempt is being made to safeguard the interests of the rural poor.
This paper focusses on the movement in this regard in the past two years, in two blocks of Betul district. It also analyses the shift in the qualitative and the quantitative measures, assesses the present situation and the past trends with a futuristic viewpoint.
Participatory processes and public disclosures are now essential when identifying potential beneficiaries, planning for activities under the Scheme, reviewing of progress in the gram sabha, monitoring through the MIS (management information system) that is available in the public domain) and, most important, having a post-completion scrutiny through a social audit.