Migration Narratives: The SHRAM Blog

100 days employment: When was it first thought of?

Last week I asked a few economist friends of mine the following question. When was the idea of 100 days employment in rural India first mooted? Each one of them said Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Scheme and then also mentioned MNREGA in the same breath.

The actual answer turns out to be India’s Third Five Year Plan (1961-66). And here is the relevant excerpt from Chapter 23 of the third plan document: “(I)t is hoped to provide additional wage-employment in rural areas for about 100 days in the year, specially during the slack agricultural seasons, for about 2.5 million persons by the last year of the Plan. The programme will specially concentrate on schemes for agricultural development like irrigation, flood control, land reclamation, afforestation and soil conservation, road development projects, provision ol rural amenities and village housing projects. In the rural works programme. labour co-operatives and other construction organisations will have a large role. They will be expected to carry stocks of tools, obtain contracts, organise the necessary cadres and work closely with panchayat samitis and panchayats. A permanent solution to the problem of under-employment can be achieved only when scientific agriculture comes to be universally adopted and the rural economic structure is greatly strengthened and diversified”.

This begs the question how much has India’s rural labour market and livelihood options in rural India changed since 1961!

S Chandrasekhar

S Chandrasekhar

Associate Professor
Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai
S Chandrasekhar
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