A Mirage or a Rural Life Line? Analysing the impact of Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act on Women Beneficiaries of Assam
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), launched in February 2006 was renamed in October 02, 2009 as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (henceforth, MGNREGA). It is an anti-poverty flagship programme of the Government of India. The key purpose of MGNREGA is to enhance wage employment in the rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed employment to every household in a financial year. The MGNREGA implementation status report for the financial year 2012-2013 unfolds that the programme has already provided employment to 44.9 million households across 28 districts and five union territories. Hence, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the impact of MGNREGA on women beneficiaries. A plethora of research argues that MGNREGA, which promotes inclusive growth, is a vehicle of change, a lifeline for rural women. So far, however, there has been very little discussion about the impact of MGNREGA on women beneficiaries of Assam. This research is an attempt to examine the participation of women in MGNREGA, Assam. It critically looks at the issues, problems and challenges confronted by the women while working at MGNREGA. Written from a feminist perspective on gender, poverty and women’s empowerment, the research seeks to address the problems of the women beneficiaries through their lived experiences. For this, we conducted in-depth interviews with the women beneficiaries in the months of August and September, 2009 in four remote areas namely, Burka, Chandrapur, Barbhang and Muguriya, the first two situated in Kamrup, while the third and the fourth in Barpeta districts of Assam, where the programme of MGNREGA is on-going. The findings of the research suggest measures so that the programme can be made more effective in the long run.