Researching the politics of development



‘They don’t want to work’ versus ‘They don’t want to provide work’: Seeking explanations for the decline of MGNREGA in Rajasthan

Working paper 31

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Deepta Chopra
This paper presents a political economy explanation for the dramatic decline of MGNREGA in Rajasthan. Originally one of the highest performing states, Rajasthan has seen a sharp decline from around 2010 onwards in the uptake of MGNREGA. The paper makes a case for this decline being counter-intuitive, given that actors working at the grassroots level were central in the formulation processes of the Act, contributing critically to the design of the Act. This paper uses information from recent field visits and secondary literature to unpack the reasons for this decline, discussing both demand-side factors and supply-side factors as explanations. It demonstrates that in Rajasthan, it is primarily the supply-side factors that have led to a decline in MGNREGA’s performance. The paper demonstrates that in Rajasthan, the greatest strengths of MGNREGA, i.e. demand-based nature and provisions around transparency, have been made its greatest shortcomings. Given the political nature of implementation of the MGNREGA, it is concluded that Rajasthan needs to put in place political engagement strategies, rather than merely technocratic solutions, if this downturn is to be arrested.