India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is the largest public-works based employment programme in the world. Unanimously enacted by the Indian parliament in 2005, implementation began in February 2006. With an annual budget of six billion US dollars, it now supports some fifty million rural people – larger than the population of Senegal, Mali and Niger combined. This article focuses on the successes, issues and potential of the Act to improve the well being of workers and family farmers.

Much has been said and written about the social audits conducted in Andhra Pradesh under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. But on the ground these audits have achieved much less than advertised and they have ignored many important aspects of implementation of NREGA.

When the National Advisory Council (NAC) was preparing the draft legislation on the right to employment, it had, in the words of one of its key members, Jean Dreze, to

The proposed National Rural Employment Guarantee Act threatens to become just that

Give the poor a say in planning and executing drought relief works

The World Hunger Task Force must respect the food choices of the poor consumer