The World Bank has conferred India’s rural employment guarantee programme — MNREGA as the world’s largest public works programme, providing social security net to almost 15 per cent of the country’s population. MNREGA was launched by the Congress-run UPA government led by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.
The legislation aiming at generating employment in rural areas came into effect from February 2006 covering 200 districts across the country. And by 1st April 2008, MNREGA had covered all the districts of India. The statute was hailed by the then UPA government as “the largest and most ambitious social security and public works programme in the world”.
In its ‘The State of Social Safety Nets 2015’ report, the World Bank stated that India is among the five middle-income countries running the world’s largest social safety net programmes.
“The world’s five largest social safety net programmes are all in middle-income countries (China, India, South Africa and Ethiopia) and reach over 526 million people,” the World Bank report said.
Recently, there was a considerable debate between the ruling BJP and the principal opposition party Congress over MNREGA. While, the Congress party has always termed MNREGA its flagship scheme aimed at addressing the problem of rural poverty, the BJP on the other hand has been critical of the scheme.
In the Parliament’s last Budget session, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took on the Congress party calling the MNREGA as the epitome of its failure.
“MNREGA is an epitome of your (Congress) failure. After so many years of being in power, all you were able to deliver is for a poor man to dig ditches a few days a month,” PM Modi had said.
Responding to the criticism, the Congress party spokesperson PC Chako had said, “This is one of the projects, which is internationally acclaimed as one of the best anti-poverty programme. If there are any loopholes in the scheme then it can be plugged”.
Detailing further about the social security programmes in India, the World Bank report also classified the Mid-day meal scheme as the biggest school feeding programme benefiting 105 million beneficiaries.
The World Bank also ranked the Janani Suraksha Yojna with 78 million beneficiaries as the top-most social security programme, along with the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme as the second-largest unconditional cash transfer social security progamme in the world.
The global bank also noted the Unique Identification (UID) as an initiative which holds the potential of improving coverage, implementation, and coordination across programmes in the future.
(With inputs from the PTI)