MGNREGA worker as a significant part of the Demographic Dividend

While we read about completion of 10 years to the MGNREGA, we also read about the highest allocation to the scheme in the current budget. Also, a report released by the World Bank declares MGNREGA as the World’s largest public works program.

Meanwhile, it becomes a necessity to think about a MGNREGA worker as a significant part of the Demographic Dividend that India is soon going to experience. Simply put, Demographic Dividend is the number of people in the working age population. Since MGNREGA also concerns itself with this age group, it becomes mandatory for such a policy to focus on the upcoming “opportunity” of Demographic Dividend.

There are two major aspects which need to be given a thought in this backdrop –

  • Looking at MGNREGA worker not only as a contributor but also as an asset.
  • Focusing on the improvement of the quality of the worker using education as a tool.

What does it exactly mean by being a worker?

Karl Marx, an eminent Sociologist, talks about the concept of “Alienation” and it becomes an utmost responsibility of the government, while it strives for the “Welfare State”, to not to make workers under MGNREGA to experience “alienation” in any way.

The Welfare State doesn’t only keep the workers engaged; it should also strive towards the quality improvement of a worker coupled with satisfaction to him/her as ultimately, these are the things which will be passed on to the next generation. Thus, only increasing the budget allocation doesn’t seem to be a long lasting measure to utilize the Demographic Dividend. Thus, we first need to define what we really mean by the term “worker” by way of which it becomes easier for us to utilize our workforce. Once we define “worker” as an asset, MGNREGA will become a largest scheme worldwide in its true sense.

Is it educated unemployment or employment guarantee forcing to be uneducated?

While we come out with policy initiatives like the New Education Policy 2016, why can’t we think of absorbing the MGNREGA workforce into the educated youth of India? Why can’t we think of creating a passion in them and why do we still increase the budget and treat them as a liability? Though the governmental initiatives like, identifying 18-35 age group MGNREGA workers and encouraging them for entrepreneurship sounds interesting, why do we still give them a “guarantee” to be employed. Is such a guarantee forcing them to be uneducated is the question that still remains to be answered.

Woman as a “worker” of MGNREGA

It has recently been reported that the percentage of women working under the umbrella of MGNREGA is steadily increasing and therefore, it becomes a necessity to look at a woman as a “worker” and also a significant contribution from women makes it mandatory to consider them a significant part of the Demographic Dividend by keeping our age old “gender” construct aside.

New Education Policy and MGNREGA: a contradictory equation?

While we convey the message of educating the masses and while we focus on Education as one of the crucial sector in the wake of the Demographic Dividend; are we contradicting this thought process by increasing the budget allocation on MGNREGA? In fact, we expect MGNREGA to become a tool of encouraging and making people enter the system of Education. Rather than this, if it is making people dependent on the government, we “celebrate” the 10 years of the scheme which probably looks at “human resource” as a liability.

On one side, we are trying to look at bringing about the most rational reforms through the Education Policy and on the other side; we are also striving towards making people dependent on the government aid. An effort to construct a bridge between “Education” and “Employment” sounds a balanced opinion and which can be implemented by connecting the two policy initiatives.

MGNREGA acts as a “base structure” but guides towards “super structure”

Again referring to Karl Marx, “Economy” is the base structure of any society and it shapes up the “super structure” which includes other institutions in the society. Therefore, we pitch for the significant focus on MGNREGA workers as a crucial part of Demographic Dividend as this would subsequently lead to changes in the other institutions. If we get a success in combining “Education” and “Employment” we could see a sea change in every other sector of the economy.  Moreover, MGNREGA does not only look at economic growth but also at economic development and “Development” being a wider term, it becomes a necessity to strive for it with a wider approach. Employment empowers but education empowers the most.

Education being a long term process and our economy being in the crucial phase, we prefer policy initiatives like skill development and which we also consider under the umbrella of MGNREGA but if one gives it a deeper thought, one understands that in fact, MGNREGA makes it easier for us to strive towards “education” as an ultimate goal. We think in a more rational way if we look at MGNREGA as a means which makes it easier to achieve the goal of education. We form a more rational approach when we focus not only on the base structure but also on the super structure.

A scheme which is been praised globally, in spirit, guides us towards forming a balance between “Education” and “Employment” and this is how it would be a success while attaining the goal of Welfare state or as Karl Marx calls it, where the means of production are equally owned by everybody. The scheme, thus, guides us towards the Gandhian Directive Principles of State Policy (to promote the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections in the society and to protect them from social injustice) and this is how the name MGNREGA will prove itself to be apt in every sense.

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Devyani holds her MA in Sociology and Public Administration along with a Certificate in Human Rights. She is a NET Qualified Assistant Professor, currently working as a lecturer of Sociology in SP College, Pune.