Researching the politics of development
The political economy of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in India
This research is based on the working hypothesis that state capacity at the sub-national and local levels, and the nature of commitment of local and state elites to social welfare programmes for the poor, can explain in large part the variations that we observe in the implementation of the MGNREGA across and within states in India. The project addresses the role of state capacity and elite commitment in explaining MGNREGA implementation.
Sixteen major Indian states – Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhatisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal – have been selected for the macro-level investigation (the sub-national state). For the micro level (village or Gram Panchayat /GP), in-depth case studies of four Gram Panchayats in Rajasthan and Gujarat will be undertaken for micro-qualitative analysis, while 100 GPs and 500 villages from four Indian states will be used for micro-quantitative analysis.
- To what extent does MGNREGA implementation vary across states in India? To what extent does MGNREGA implementation vary within states, and at what level (district, block, panchayat, village)? To what extent are there differences in ‘rationing’ of MGNREGA work by social group, religion and gender? What dimensions of MGNREGA implementation vary more systematically than others (e.g. number of households looking for work who obtain MGNREGA work, average number of days worked, average wages paid as a ratio of stipulated wage; time taken to pay MGNREGA wages, gender and social group differences in ‘rationing’, and in wages paid)?
- To what extent is across-state MGNREGA implementation variation determined by the capacities of the sub-national state? To what extent is within-state NREGA implementation variation determined by the capacities of the state at the district and block levels? Which levels of the state matter more in explaining MGNREGA implementation, across and within states? Which dimensions of state capacity (organisational capacity of the state, infrastructural reach and relational capacity) matter more in explaining MGNREGA implementation, across and within states?
- To what extent is across-state MGNREGA implementation variation determined by the commitment of state-level political elites? To what extent is within-state MGNREGA implementation variation determined by commitment of elites at the local level? What is the role of ideology and interests in explaining elite commitment to successful MGNREGA implementation? To what extent does the political regime (ideological leaning of political party), the nature of political leadership and political competition matter? What is the role of local power relations, stratified by wealth, and caste, important in explaining MGNREGA implementation?
- What are the political feedback effects of MGNREGA implementation? Does successful MGNREGA implementation lead to a shift from clientelist to programmatic and bureaucratic forms of politics?
- What are the potential interactions between state capacity and elite commitment in explaining MGNREGA implementation? How do coalitions form to bring about successful MGNREGA implementation? What is the role of civil society (including the media) in successful MGNREGA implementation?
Methods and research design
The research project has four components. The methodology is a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, both at micro and macro levels of analysis.
- Macro-qualitative – document searches and semi-structured elite interviews.
- Macro-quantitative – cluster analysis and cross-sectional econometrics.
- Micro-qualitative – political ethnography, interviews, records, field observations.
- Micro-quantitative – census-type information and household surveys.
How does this project fit within ESID’s research agenda?
This project addresses all three of ESID’s core research questions. It focuses on two specific political variables, in line with ESID’s core concerns – state capacity and elite commitment. It also aims to produce mid-level policy generalisations and contribute to broader debates on the politics of social protection.
|Lead Researcher||Kunal Sen||The University of Manchester, UK|
|Researcher||Deepta Chopra||Institute of Development Studies, UK|
|Researcher||Subhasish Dey||The University of Manchester, UK|
|Researcher||Himanshu||Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi|
|Researcher||Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay||Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi|
|Researcher||Indrajit Roy||University of Oxford|
Subhasish Dey and Kunal Sen (2016). ‘Is partisan alignment electorally rewarding? Evidence from village council elections in India‘. ESID Working Paper 63.
Deepta Chopra (2015). ‘Political commitment in India’s social policy implementation: Shaping the performance of MGNREGA‘. ESID Working Paper 50.
Indrajit Roy (2015). ‘Class politics and social protection: the implementation of India’s MGNREGA‘. ESID Working Paper 46.
Bhanu Gupta and Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay (2014). ‘Local funds and political competition: Evidence from the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in India‘. ESID Working Paper 42.
Himanshu, Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay, and M. R. Sharan (2014). ‘The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in Rajasthan: Rationed funds and their allocation across villages‘. ESID Working Paper 35.
Deepta Chopra (2014). ‘“They don’t want to work” versus “They don’t want to provide work”: Seeking explanations for the decline of MGNREGA in Rajasthan‘. ESID Working Paper 31.
Mukhopadhyay, A. (2012). ‘The political economy of implementing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in India’. ESID Working Paper 15.
‘How commitment and class relations shape MGNREGA implementation in India‘. ESID Briefing Paper 11.
‘Supply or demand? How politics influences the implementation of MGNREGA in Rajasthan‘. ESID Briefing Paper 6.
‘Success and failure in MGNREGA implementation in India’. ESID Briefing Paper 1.
MGNREGA on the ESID blog
Do Gram Panchayat leaders favour their own constituencies in MNREGA fund allocation? (Subhasish Dey and Kunal Sen, January 2017)
MNREGA, India’s Rural Employment Guarantee – 10 years on (Kunal Sen, March 2016)
Is NREGA reaching its end? (Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay, January 2015)
New Delhi Workshop: Politics shapes MGNREGA implementation in India (Kunal Sen, March 2014)