In spite of all its shortcomings, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) of 2005 has had some major achievements. All these achievements, however, are conditional on work being available on the ground (Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, 1 October, 2014).
The total number of households which were provided employment was 49494518, which was 96.82% of households who had demanded employment (i.e. 51120857 households), during the Financial Year 2012-13. The top 5 States where the maximum number of households which were provided employment during the Financial Year 2012-13 are: Tamil Nadu (7060722), West Bengal (5801138), Andhra Pradesh (5786315), Uttar Pradesh (4931708) and Rajasthan (4217157).
The data illustrates a number of interesting points that are also corroborated in other studies (See Dreze, 2010). First, MNREGA is reaching the poorest of the poor, and is of particular significance for marginalized communities such as the Scheduled Caste (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). Second, MNREGA is of special significance for women who have very limited opportunities for remunerated employment. Third, MNREGA workers have a productive value -creating useful assets in the village. Fourth, the transition to a right-based framework appears to be leading to a major decline in the exploitation of labor at public works. Fifth, MNREGA has shown its potential as an organizational tool for rural workers (Dreze, 2010).
The MNREGA is a significant step towards the realization of the right to work. The Act, which aims to guarantee hundred days of wage-employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work, came into force February 2006 in 200 districts , and was extended to the entire country April 2008. However, there is still a long way to go in protecting basic entitlements of rural workers under MNREGA – work on demand, minimum wages, payment of wages within fifteen days of work, basic worksite facilities, and unemployment allowance, among others (Dreze, 2010).