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Poznań, Poland -
MGNREGS in Odisha: Social Inclusion and Exclusion Challenges
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is the central government’s response to the constitutionally manifested right to work and means to promote livelihood security by creating durable assets in India’s rural areas. MGNREGA was enacted in 2005 to provide 100 days of guaranteed work to any person who demands the same. There is increasing recognition of the potential of social protection programs to go beyond the safety net-centred application – focused on meeting people’s basic needs in an inclusive manner – and leading to social inclusion, empowerment and larger sustainable development goals. Being a social protection program to assure inclusion, in reality, MGNREGS in the state of Odisha, has failed to do so and led to exclusion of those who most require the same, the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, persons living below the poverty line and especially women across these categories. This paper is based on a study conducted in four districts of Odisha, Bolangir, Kalahandi, Nuapada and Baragarh. Using both qualitative and quantitative data, the paper demonstrates the challenges to social inclusion and exclusion that are reinforced by both state and non-state policies and actors. Further, it highlights distress migration to be a strategy adopted by many to augment their income as livelihood options are limited in these geographies. The paper therefore asserts that distress migration is an outcome of social exclusion and requires a commitment to change that is gradual and incremental.