What is MGNREGA?

What is MGNREGA?

MGNREGA; Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was initiated by the Ministry of Rural Development in 2005, stands as a monumental work assurance program, boasting one of the most expensive scopes globally.

  • Designed with the aim to offer 100 days of employment annually to adult members of rural households, the scheme focuses on facilitating unskilled manual labor.
  • By the fiscal year 2022-23, the program recorded a substantial participation of 15.4 crore active workers. 

Legal right to work: One of its groundbreaking features is its foundation on a rights-oriented approach, aiming not merely at temporary employment but addressing the root causes of persistent poverty.

  • A distinctive facet of MGNREGA is its commitment to gender equality, stipulating that a minimum of one-third of its beneficiaries must be women. 
  • Moreover, wages disbursed under this scheme align with the minimum wages defined for agricultural workers in respective states, as outlined by the Minimum Wages Act of 1948.

Demand-Responsive: The core essence of MGNREGA lies in its demand-responsive nature. It pledges that any rural adult seeking employment should receive an opportunity within a fortnight of their request. If this obligation isn't met, the system mandates the provision of an 'unemployment allowance', ensuring that workers are not left unsupported.

Decentralized Planning of the scheme: In its operational framework, MGNREGA champions the principle of decentralization, entrusting significant responsibilities to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). These institutions play a pivotal role in both strategizing and executing the designated works. 

Objectives of the scheme

MGNREGA, or the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, is crafted with distinct objectives in mind:

  • Assure 100 days of wage employment annually to the unskilled rural workforce.
  • Enhance the economic stability and security of rural communities.
  • Stem the tide of labor migration from rural locales to urban centers.

Key characteristics of the scheme include:

  • Empowering Gram Panchayats with substantial authority in overseeing public works, thereby reinforcing the role of Panchayati Raj Institutions. While Gram Sabhas maintain the autonomy to either accept or dismiss suggestions from Intermediate and District Panchayats.
  • Infusing accountability within its framework, ensuring that operations are transparent and adhere to stipulated guidelines.

Since its inception, MGNREGA has made remarkable strides, witnessing a surge of 240% in employment opportunities over a decade. It has been instrumental in bolstering the economic agency of rural communities, curtailing labor exploitation, and narrowing the wage disparity based on gender. Supporting this progress, official MGNREGA data reveals:

  • Issuance of 14.88 crores MGNREGA job cards, with 9.3 crores being active.
  • Employment provision to 28.83 crores workers during 2020-21, of which 14.49 crores remained actively engaged.
  • It is obligatory for Gram Sabhas to suggest the types of projects to be undertaken, and they are tasked with overseeing the execution of at least half of these endeavors.

Role of different authorities under MGNREGA

In the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), both the Gram Sabha and Gram Panchayat play pivotal roles in ensuring the effective implementation and oversight of the program. Here's a breakdown of their respective responsibilities:

Role of Gram Sabha in MGNREGS:

  • Prioritization: The Gram Sabha determines the priority of works based on the local area's potential and needs.
  • Monitoring: It oversees the execution of projects within the Gram Panchayat jurisdiction to ensure quality and timely completion.
  • Social Audits: Serving as a crucial platform, the Gram Sabha conducts social audits to ensure transparency and accountability in the utilization of MGNREGS funds and resources.
  • Query Resolution: The Gram Sabha addresses and resolves queries or concerns raised by workers regarding any aspect of MGNREGA projects.

Role of Gram Panchayat in MGNREGA:

  • Application Reception: The Gram Panchayat receives and processes job applications submitted by potential workers.
  • Verification: It is tasked with verifying the authenticity of the received applications.
  • Registration: The Gram Panchayat registers all eligible households for the scheme.
  • Job Card Issuance: It issues MGNREGA job cards to registered beneficiaries, facilitating their participation in the program.
  • Work Allocation: Within 15 days of application submission, the Gram Panchayat allocates suitable employment opportunities to registered workers.
  • Reporting: Annually, the Gram Panchayat compiles and presents a report detailing the accomplishments and progress of the MGNREGS activities within its jurisdiction.
  • Monthly Engagement: Organizing monthly Rozgar Diwas at every ward, the Gram Panchayat fosters regular engagement and feedback mechanisms with workers.

Role of State Governments in MGNREGA:

State governments hold significant responsibilities in steering the MGNREGA initiative. Their key roles include:

  • Regulation: Formulating and updating rules that delineate the state's obligations and commitments under the MGNREGA framework.
  • Council Establishment: Establishing and overseeing the State Employment Guarantee Council, which plays a supervisory role at the state level.
  • Fund Management: Setting up the State Employment Guarantee Fund (SEGF) to ensure adequate financial resources are allocated and utilized efficiently.
  • Operational Support: Appointing and deploying essential personnel such as the Employment Guarantee Assistant (Gram Rozgar Sahayak), Program Officers, and staff across various administrative levels to facilitate the seamless execution of the scheme.

Challenges in MGNREGA Implementation

Several impediments hinder the smooth execution of MGNREGA:

  1. Funding Delays: Wages often aren't disbursed within the stipulated 15-day window, leading to waning interest among potential workers. This delay is frequently attributed to funding shortages.
  2. Caste Disparities: Delays in wage disbursement are disproportionately higher for non-SC/ST workers compared to their SC and ST counterparts, particularly evident in economically disadvantaged states.
  3. Inadequate PRI Autonomy: Gram panchayats, despite their crucial role, often lack the autonomy required for effective MGNREGA implementation.
  4. Incomplete Projects: Many MGNREGA projects remain unfinished, plagued by irregular inspections and concerns over work quality.
  5. Job Card Issues: The presence of counterfeit job cards, inaccuracies in entries, and delays in updating records are persistent challenges.

Recommendations for Enhancing MGNREGA Efficacy

Addressing these challenges necessitates:

  1. Strengthening inter-departmental coordination and refining work allocation mechanisms.
  2. Ensuring equitable wage distribution, with particular attention to the gender pay gap.
  3. Accelerating the initiation of public works across villages and minimizing delays in work allocation.
  4. Proactively engaging with returning and quarantined migrant workers, facilitating their enrollment in the program.
  5. Empowering gram panchayats with enhanced resources and responsibilities to streamline project sanctioning and wage disbursement processes.
  6. Integrating MGNREGA with complementary government schemes, such as the Green India initiative and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, to foster synergies.


While MGNREGA stands as a beacon of hope for countless rural households, its full potential remains untapped due to various implementation challenges. Addressing these hurdles demands concerted efforts, from bolstering administrative mechanisms to ensuring inclusivity and transparency at every level. By reimagining and reinforcing its foundational pillars, MGNREGA can truly catalyze transformative change, driving sustainable rural development and fostering economic empowerment across communities.

Book A Free Counseling Session