Rural Poverty and Employment Guarantee Scheme: Reflections from West Bengal

Part of the India Studies in Business and Economics book series (ISBE)


Public works programme or workfare programme has emerged as the strategic intervention in addressing unemployment, poverty as well as infrastructure building. The central plank of the programme is that income transfer particularly during distress times enables consumption soothing for the poor households and the resultant sustainable assets generate another bout of livelihood avenues. MGNREGA in India is the largest employment guarantee programme in the world in terms of statutory ordination as well as coverage. It has evoked positive expectations as it is poised to reduce poverty, reverse inequality and out-migration and to resuscitate rural economy by improving infrastructure and agricultural productivity. Notwithstanding the prodigious potentialities and few survey evidences on the affirmative impacts on rural poverty, it is equally emphatic that the success of MGNREGA would hinge on many pre-requisites like rolling out of at least the stipulated days of work to the poor especially during the time of joblessness (as in lean agricultural session) and the undertaken works having clear focus on agricultural productivity and rural livelihood. With the general objective of peeking at whether and how MGNREGA is reaching out to areas/ regions with larger concentration of rural poor, this chapter singles out the poorest district of West Bengal (i.e. Cooch Behar) and its poorest administrative Block (i.e. Dinhata-I) and explores the association between the progress of MGNREGA and participation of the poor in the sample district and Block. The analysis of the aggregate official data evinces that MGNREGA has fallen short of offering the envisaged number of person-days, thus it has not catered to the subsistence demands of the poor. In other words, a clear relationship between the outreach of MGNREGA and the proportion of the poor households seems to be missing and this is likely to have little impact on the poverty eradication efforts and outcome. Together with such disconnect, the chapter also highlights few other procedural dimensions which hold up the general fruition of MGNREGA.


Employment guarantee scheme BPL Person-days generated Poverty eradication Migration West Bengal Cooch Behar 


  1. Coffey, D., Papp, J., & Spears, D. (2011). Dual economies or dual livelihoods? Short-term migration from rural India and non-agricultural employment. World Bank Policy Research Paper No. 5765. World Bank: Washington.Google Scholar
  2. Das, U. (2013). Can the rural employment guarantee scheme reduce short term migration: Evidence from West Bengal, India. Development Economics: Microeconomic Issues in Developing Economies, 72(2), 410–416.Google Scholar
  3. Das, U. (2015). Does political activism and affiliation affect allocation of benefits in the rural employment guarantee programme? Evidence from West Bengal, India. World Development, 67, 202–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Das, U., Singh, A., & Mahanto, N. (2012). Awareness about Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act: Some evidence from the northern parts of West Bengal, India. Economics Bulletin, 32(1), 528–537.Google Scholar
  5. Dey, S. (2009). Evaluating India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme: The case of Birbhum district, West Bengal. The Hague: Graduate School of Development Studies, International Institute of Social Studies.Google Scholar
  6. Drèze, J., & Oldiges, C. (2009). How is NREGA doing? Frontline, 26(4), 14–22.Google Scholar
  7. Ghosh, J. K. (2011). Impact of NREGA on wage rates, food security and rural urban migration in West Bengal. Agro-Economic Research Centre, Study No. 169. Visva-Bharati.Google Scholar
  8. Government of West Bengal. (2004). Human development report: West Bengal (HDRWB). Development and Planning Department: Kolkata.Google Scholar
  9. Institute for Development of Youth, Women and Children. (2010). Impact of MGNREGS on sustainable asset creation and livelihood. Report submitted to Ministry of Rural Development (Govt. of India) and UNDP.Google Scholar
  10. Kareemulla, K., Reddy, S. K., Rao, K., & Venkateswarlu. (2009). Soil and water conservation works through NREGS in Andhra Pradesh—An analysis of livelihood impact. Agricultural Economics Research Review, 22, 443–450.Google Scholar
  11. Liu, Y., & Deininger, K. (2010). Poverty impacts of India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme: Evidence from Andhra Pradesh. Paper presented at the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association, (AAEA, CAES, & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting), Denver, July 25–27.Google Scholar
  12. Mangatter, S. (2011). Does the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act strengthen rural self employment in Bolpur subdivision (West Bengal, India)? Germany: Philipps University.Google Scholar
  13. Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India. (2012). MGNREGA Sameeksha: An anthology of research studies, 2012. Orient BlackSwine: New Delhi.Google Scholar
  14. Mohanty, B.K. (2014, December 7). Laggard Bengal leaps to top 5. The Telegraph.Google Scholar
  15. Mukherjee, S., & Ghosh, S. (2009). What determines the success and failure of ‘100 days work’ at the panchayat level? A study of Birbhum district in West Bengal. Institute of Development Studies: Kolkata.Google Scholar
  16. NSSO (National Sample Survey Organisation). (2012). Survey of MGNREGA, 2011–12. Govt. of India: New Delhi.Google Scholar
  17. Rao, K. H., & Durgaprasad, P. (2008). Rural poverty alleviation in India: Contribution of NREGS. IASSI Quarterly, 27(1&2), 15–30.Google Scholar
  18. Ravi, S., & Engler, M. (2015). Workfare as an effective way to fight poverty: The Case of India’s NREGS. World Development, 67, 57–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Sarkar, P. K., & Supriya. (2011). Impact of MGNREGA on reducing rural poverty and improving socio-economic status of rural poor: A study in Burdwan District of West Bengal. Agricultural Economic Research Review, 24, 437–448.Google Scholar
  20. UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). (2010). What will it take to achieve millennium development goals? Washington.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Central Bank of IndiaCooch BeharIndia
  2. 2.Political ScienceTufanganj CollegeCooch BeharIndia

Personalised recommendations