MGNREGA: Measuring implementation outcomes

Explaining success, understanding failure in the implementation of MGNREGA

Speaker: Prof. Kunal Sen, University of Manchester
Chair: Dr Jyotsna Puri, Deputy Executive Director and Head of Evaluation, 3ie
Co-Chair
: Dr Shakti Prasad Pal, Director, Evaluation Method and Statistics, Independent Evaluation Office, Government of India
Discussant: Prof. Reetika Khera, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi
Date: 21 July, 3.30-5 p.m.
Venue: Independent Evaluation Office, Shivaji Annexe Building, 2nd Floor, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Marg, New Delhi

A striking feature of the MGNREGA has been the significant variations in implementation outcomes across and within states. Most surprisingly, MGNREGA employment outcomes are lower in states with higher poverty levels. What explains these differences in implementation, both across and within Indian states?

Prof. Sen will present the findings of a research project undertaken by the Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre based at the University of Manchester on understanding the constraints to the implementation of the MGNREGA.

The project has examined the factors that determine successful implementation of the MGNREGA across eight states in India, as well as variations in implementation across gram panchayats in Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan and West Bengal, using both qualitative and quantitative methods.

The study finds that:

  • MGNREGA implementation is still driven by the supply of work made available, not the demand for it.
  • Differences in the capacity of the state and commitment of administrative and political elites lead to variation in employment outcomes.
  • Local power relations, the role of lower-level functionaries, and the extent of political competition affect MGNREGA employment outcomes.
  • Supply of work to villages is influenced by local political factors such as the affiliation of the elected Sarpanches responsible for allocating work at gram panchayat level, who ration work in favour of their own villages, which points to potential problems of decentralised programme implementation.

These findings question some of the basic assumptions of MGNREGA. The research also shows that there is no single route to better MGNREGA implementation. To improve implementation, the study recommends that policymakers:

  • Strengthen the demand-side nature of MGNREGA by focusing on local level social audits, more direct funding, and tracking of projects down to village level.
  • Support states to improve their capacity and commitment while allowing them a degree of flexibility in MGNREGA implementation.

Download policy brief

Papers related to the project:

'They don't want to work' versus 'They don't want to provide work': Seeking explanations for the decline of MGNREGA in Rajasthan

Local funds and political competition: Evidence from the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in India

This seminar will be hosted jointly with the Independent Evaluation Office, Government of India.

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