The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) was formerly known as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. This Act was notified on the 7th of September, 2005.


The aim and objective of MGNREGA is to enhance financial security in rural areas by providing a minimum of hundred days of guaranteed wage employment in one financial year to every household whose adult member has offered to do unskilled manual labour.

About the Act

MGNREGA was introduced to improve the purchasing power of the rural people who live below the poverty line in India. This is done to help them when they are willing to work but are unable to find employment to support their families. It attempts to bridge the ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor in the country.

How does the Act work?

The adult members who are willing to work submit their name, age and address along with a photo to the Gram Panchayat. The Gram Panchayat then registers the household after making enquiries, and issues a job card. The job card that is issued contains the details of the adult member who has registered along with the photograph. The registered adult member can then submit a work application in writing (for at least 14 days of continuous work) either to the Panchayat or Programme Officer. After this is completed, the Panchayat or Programme Officer accepts the valid application that is submitted and issues a dated receipt of application. Then, a letter providing work is sent to the registered adult and is displayed at the Panchayat office. Employment is provided within a 5-kilometre radius. If the distance is above 5 kilometres, then additional wages are provided.

Goals of the Act

  • To provide strong economic safeguarding to those groups who are economically weak by offering unskilled manual employment when employment is scarce and hard to find
  • To empower the rural adults with a right-based law for their livelihood
  • To promote the principles of grass root democracy and transparency
  • To offer basic wage security to the rural economy and help them support themselves financially

Salient features of the Act

  1. Adults who are willing to do unskilled manual labour from rural households can register by writing or orally to the Gram Panchayat or Programme Officer in his/her locality.
  2. The Gram Panchayat after verification through enquiries provides a job card. The job card contains the photos of all the adult members of a household who are willing to do unskilled manual work.
  3. The entire process to apply for work is free of cost under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
  4. The job card is provided within fifteen days of registration or application.
  5. The adult member who is a job card holder can then apply for employment in writing by mentioning the time and duration of work that is required by him/her. Fourteen days is the minimum days of employment that needs to be applied for.
  6. The Gram Panchayat then issues the dated receipt of the written application. Once this is done, employment is guaranteed to be found for the adult member within fifteen days.
  7. If employment is not found for the adult member within fifteen days, a daily unemployment allowance as per the Act has to be paid.
  8. In most cases, employment is provided within a 5-kilometre radius of the village. In some rare cases when employment is farther than 5 kilometres from the village, extra wages of 10% are applicable to the adult member to accommodate transportation or living expenses.
  9. The wages that are to be paid to the adult member must be in accordance with the Minimum Wages Act 1948 for agricultural labourers in the State. Men and women are to be paid equal wages for their work.
  10. The wages are to be paid in accordance to a daily rate or piece rate. The wages must be paid to the adult members on a weekly basis and not beyond fourteen days in any case.
  11. One-third of the beneficiaries are to be women who have registered for work under this scheme.
  12. Creche, drinking water and shade is to be offered at the work site for the adult members who work.
  13. Work that is permitted is majorly water and soil conservation, afforestation and land development work.
  14. There is wage and material ratio that is to be maintained, which is 40:60. Contractors and machinery are not allowed.
  15. 100% of the wage cost of the adult member is borne by the Central Government.
  16. There are grievance mechanisms that have been set up for efficient functioning of this Act.

Coverage of the Act

MGNREGA now covers the whole country of India. It excludes the districts that have a one hundred percent urban population only.

Key factors

  1. The major focus of MGNREGA is the social and economic empowerment of women.

  2. MGNREGA provides decent and green work to the adult members who register.

  3. Social Audits of MGNREGA are compulsory and mandatory. This is what provides accountability and transparency.

  4. Climate change vulnerability and the protection of farmers from such risks is addressed by MGNREGA.

  5. The aim to conserve natural resources is addressed too.

Activities under the Act

The Union Rural Development Ministry notifies the works that come under MGNREGA. A major part of these activities is associated with agriculture and related activities. The activities are divided into watershed, flood management and irrigation, agriculture and livestock related duties, fisheries and work in costal regions, rural drinking water and sanitation related work.

So, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is a very beneficial Act and has helped empower many rural workers and give them financial stability and security to support themselves and their families.