The National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP) launched in 2005 is the largest rural employment programme ever undertaken in India with an investment of Rs 30,000 crore every year, unleashing wage employment and livelihood opportunities for millions of rural poor in the country.
Studies done by scholars like Narayanan (2008), Vijayanand (2008) and Sharif (2008) show that in spite of many limitations the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) has become a women's programme. Narayanan and Vijayanand have restricted their study to one state each only, but Sharif has studied seven states.
Sadly, NREGA, the greatest democratic experiment undertaken to reduce rural poverty, has become the stick to beat the Panchayati Raj System - the other greatest experiment of democratic decentralisation.
Afghanistan has signed a near-identical MoU with three institutions in India - Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) and Institute of Social Sciences (ISS) for collaboration to promote the cause of local government.
Residents of Panihari village are now a happy lot. They are celebrating freedom from floods for the first time in living memory. Agricultural wages have incresed across the district in the past one year. They say their lives have improved because of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).