GS-3 Mains

QUESTION : Highlight the  importance of MGNREGA during the time of COVID-19 pandemic and how it can help to sustain the livelihood at the rural level?




COVID-19 Lockdown and MGNREGA


  • The COVID-19 lockdown yet again proved the potential and need of MGNREGA in our country.



  • Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act 2005 or NREGA later renamed as the “Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act”, MGNREGA), is an Indian labour law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the ‘right to work’.
  • This act was passed in September 2005.MGNREGA is one of the largest work guarantee programmes in the world.



  • The PRIMARY OBJECTIVE of the scheme is to guarantee 100 days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work.
  • LEGAL RIGHT TO WORK :The act aims at addressing the causes of chronic poverty through a rights-based framework.At least one-third of beneficiaries have to be women.
  • Wages must be paid according to the statutory minimum wages specified for agricultural labourers in the state under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948.
  • DEMAND-DRIVEN SCHEME :MGNREGA’s design is its legally-backed guarantee for any rural adult to get work within 15 days of demanding it, failing which an ‘unemployment allowance’ must be given.
  • DECENTRALISED PLANNING :Emphasis on strengthening the process of decentralisation by giving a significant role in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in planning and implementing these works.



  • Receiving applications for registration.
  • Verifying registration applications.
  • Registering households.
  • Issuing Job Cards (JCs).
  • Receiving applications for work.
  • Issuing dated receipts for these applications for work.
  • Allotting work within fifteen days of submitting the application or from the date when work is sought in the case of an advance application.
  • Identification and planning of works, developing shelf of projects including determination of the order of their priority.

Responsibilities of State Government in MGNREGA:

  • Frame Rules on matters pertaining to State responsibilities under Section 32 of the Act ii) Develop and notify the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme for the State.
  • Set up the State Employment Guarantee Council (SEGC).
  • Set up a State level MGNREGA implementation agency/ mission with adequate number of high calibre professionals.
  • Set up a State level MGNREGA social audit agency/directorate with adequate number of people with knowledge on MGNREGA processes and demonstrated commitment to social audit.
  • Establish and operate a State Employment Guarantee Fund (SEGF).


  • REDUCED FUND ALLOCATION: Both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 budgets reduced MGNREGA allocations in comparison to actual expenditure in the previous year.
  • UNDER-UTILISED POTENTIAL: With an average 23 days of work and a daily wage of Rs. 200, households who got work earned an average of Rs.1,500 a month.
  • UNABLE TO MEET THE DEMAND: According to Government data 8.07 crore workers demanded work, but work was provided only to 6.25 crore workers.
  • Further the people were not paid unemployment allowance on time.
  • LESS FOCUS due to other schemes: The announcement of the Central government’s “new” scheme, the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan, to provide work to migrant workers in 116 selected districts diverts attention from MGNREGA.
  • The scheme is primarily meant for migrant workers in those districts where their numbers are 25,000 or more.



  • MGNREGA is a key instrument to prevent violence and suffering in rural India.
  • FULFILLING THE TARGETS: Ensure that each registered worker receives the full 100 days of work.
  • REVISING WAGES: An expert committee had suggested in 2019 that it be revised to Rs 375 a day.
  • MGNREGA wages: The current MGNREGA wage of Rs 202 a day is 40-50 per cent lower than the average unskilled daily wage in India.
  • TIMELY PAYMENT: All wages need to be cleared within 15 days from the day w ork is done as stipulated in the Act.
  • EXPANDING COVERAGE:the minimum guarantee should be extended to 200 days so as to secure the living conditions for the marginalised.
  • Further there should be removal of the restriction of only one person per household to make every individual eligible.
  • FUND DISPOSAL: The government must ensure the release of funds on a timely basis so that timely work or unemployment allowance can be provided to workers.
  • Compliment and not Substitute: The MGNREGA should be complemented with other schemes like Garib Kalyan Rojgaar Abhiyan rather than seeing the latter as a substitute for it as
    • 25 works allowed in Garib Kalyan Yojana are already covered by it.
    • It is needed for women empowerment as 1/3rd beneficiaries must be women.
  • It gives Pan India coverage while the latter is restricted to 116 districts.


Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan:

  • The Central government’s new scheme, the Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan, aims to provide work to migrant workers in 116 selected districts.
  • The Ministry of Rural Development is the nodal Ministry for this scheme.
  • The scheme is primarily meant for migrant workers in those districts where their numbers are 25,000 or more.



  • It is essential for the Central government to ensure that States are provided with timely funds to pay for the work under MGNREGA and also unemployment allowance to workers demanding work.
  • With nearly eight crore migrant workers returning to their villages, and with an additional allocation for the year, this could be a moment for the true revival of MGNREGA.





GS-2 Mains


QUESTION : Discuss the reasons and put forward suitable measures to revive this vital regional grouping with respect to India.


Topic Name– REVIVING SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) TO DEAL WITH CHINA 



  • Revival of SAARC


  • Nepal is moving closer to China for ideational and material reasons.
  • China is wooing Bangladesh by offering tariff exemption to 97% of Bangladeshi products, and has intensified its ties with Sri Lanka through massive investments.
  • According to a Brookings India study, most South Asian nations are now largely dependent on China for imports despite geographical proximity to India.



  • The signing of the SAARC Charter in Dhaka established the SAARC in 1985.
  • Secretariat is in Kathmandu, Nepal.


  • To promote the welfare of the people of South Asia and to improve their quality of life.
  • To accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region.
  • To promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South Asia.
  • To contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems.
  • To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields.
  • To strengthen cooperation with other developing countries.
  • To strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of common interests.
  • To cooperate with international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes.



  • Human Resource Development and Tourism
  • Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Environment, Natural Disasters and Biotechnology
  • Economic, Trade and Finance
  • Social Affairs
  • Information and Poverty Alleviation
  • Energy, Transport, Science and Technology
  • Education, Security and Culture and Others



  • Geostrategic significance: Can counter China (OBOR initiative) through engaging Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka in development process and economic cooperation.
  • Regional stability: SAARC can help in creation of mutual trust and peace within the region.
  • Global leadership role: It offers India a platform to showcase its leadership in the region by taking up extra responsibilities.
  • Game changer for India’s Act East Policy: by linking South Asian economies with South East asian will bring further economic integration and prosperity to India mainly in the Services Sector.
  • Eight states―Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
  • Six observers—China, Japan, European Union, Republic of Korea, United States, Iran


The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) :

  • It is a regional organization comprising seven Member States lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal constituting a contiguous regional unity.
  • This sub-regional organization came into being on 6 June 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration.
  • It constitutes seven Member States: five deriving from South Asia, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and two from Southeast Asia, including Myanmar and Thailand.
  • Initially, the economic bloc was formed with four Member States with the acronym ‘BIST-EC’ (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation).


  • Strained India-Pakistan relations
  • Due to India’s increasing animosity with Pakistan, India’s political interest in SAARC dipped significantly.
  • India has been trying hard to isolate Pakistan internationally for its role in promoting terrorism in India.
  • India’s focus on other groupings
  • India started investing in other regional instruments, such as BIMSTEC, as an alternative to SAARC.
  • However, BIMSTEC cannot replace SAARC for reasons such as
  • Lack of a common identity and history among all BIMSTEC members.
  • Also, BIMSTEC’s focus is on the Bay of Bengal region, thus making it an inappropriate forum to engage all South Asian nations.
  • Least integrated region: South Asia is one of the least integrated regions in the world with intra-regional trade fluctuating at barely 5% of total South Asian trade.
  • Lack of political will and trust deficit



  • Dents in India’s soft power of being a liberal and secular democracy
  • There have been allegations of an unrelenting top-dressing of anti-Pakistan rhetoric and Islamophobia on the Indian soil.
  • There’s also a recurrent use of the ‘Bangladeshi migrant’ rhetoric.
  • This divisive domestic politics may fuel an anti-India sentiment in India’s neighborhood.
  • Unclear economic vision of India
  • It’s unclear what the slogans of atma nirbharta (self-reliance) and ‘vocal for local’ mean.
  • The Prime Minister of India is stating that India needs to cut down its dependence on imports, thus signaling a return to the economic philosophy of import substitution.
  • Infusing life in SAARC through the process of South Asian economic integration
  • India should take the lead: India should take the lead and work with its neighbors to slash the tariff and non-tariff barriers.
  • Resuscitate the negotiations on a SAARC investment treaty
  • These negotiations have been pending since 2007.
  • According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, intra-ASEAN investments constitute around 19% of the total investments in the region.
  • The SAARC region can likewise benefit from higher intra-SAARC investment flows.
  • Deeper regional economic integration will create greater interdependence with India acquiring the central role, which, in turn, would serve India’s strategic interests too


Two domestic challenges:

  • There has been an unrelenting top-dressing of anti-Pakistan rhetoric and Islamophobia on the Indian soil.
  • There’s also a recurrent use of the ‘Bangladeshi migrant’ rhetoric.



  • SAARC could be a common platform to demand more sustainable alternatives for development, or to oppose trade tariffs together, or to demand better terms for South Asian labour around the world.
  • SAARC reflects the South Asian identity of the countries, historically and contemporarily. This is a naturally made geographical identity. Equally, there is a cultural, linguistic, religious and culinary affinity that defines South Asia.
  • The potential of organisation to maintain peace and stability in the region should be explored by all the member countries.
  • SAARC should be allowed to progress naturally and the people of South Asia.
  • India should take the lead and work with SAARC members to slash the tariff and non-tariff barriers. There’s a need to resuscitate the negotiations on SAARC investment and trade treaties.
  • Deeper regional economic integration will create greater interdependence with India acquiring the central role, which, in turn, would serve India’s strategic interests too.
  • One way to reinvigorate SAARC is to revive the process of South Asian economic integration.


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