Several leading economists have said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should not dilute the provisions of the rural work guarantee programme, MNREGA, which has provided economic security to millions of poor.
The signatories to an open letter to the Prime Minister include Dilip Abreu (Princeton University), Pranab Bardhan (University of California Berkeley), V Bhaskar (University of Texas at Austin), Jean Drèze (Visiting Professor, Ranchi University), Abhijit Sen (former Member, Planning Commission) and Dilip Mookherjee (Boston University).
The MNREGA, they said, was enacted in 2005 with unanimous support from all political parties and it will have a “far reaching” impact on the much-needed economic security to the lives of millions of people who are on the margins of subsistence.
“For the first time, the Central Government is imposing caps on MNREGA expenditure on state governments, undermining the principle of work on demand,” they said in the letter.
“The message seems to be that the new government is not committed to MNREGA and hopes to restrict it as much as possible. We urge you to reverse this trend and ensure that the programme receives all the support it requires to survive and thrive,” it added.
The letter, signed by 28 economists, said the Central Government appears to be considering an amendment aimed at restricting MNREGA to the country’s poorest 200 districts.
The economists have opined that the programme could and should do even better but said that the gains that have been achieved are substantial and amply justify further efforts to make it a success.
“This runs against a fundamental premise of the Act: gainful employment that affords basic economic security is a human right. Even India’s relatively prosperous districts are unlikely to be free from unemployment or poverty in the foreseeable future,” the letter added.