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MGNREGA Wage Hike And Congress' Guarantees: Will It Impact 2024 Lok Sabha Polls? ,

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NEW DELHI: As India braces itself for the crucial 2024 Lok Sabha elections, a significant development in the realm of rural employment has emerged, potentially altering the electoral calculus. The Ministry of Rural Development has been authorized by the Election Commission of India to announce revised wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for the upcoming financial year, which has sparked discussions and debates across the political spectrum.

The Significance Of MGNREGA

MGNREGA, a flagship rural employment scheme of the erstwhile UPA regime guaranteeing 100 days of work each year for every rural household, was enacted in 2005. It holds immense significance in India's socio-economic landscape. Aimed at providing livelihood security to rural households by guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment in a financial year, MGNREGA plays a pivotal role in alleviating poverty, boosting rural incomes, and enhancing agricultural productivity. The MGNREGA was initiated with the objective of “enhancing livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year, to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work”. Another aim of MGNREGA is to create durable assets (such as roads, canals, ponds and wells). Employment is to be provided within 5 km of an applicant's residence, and minimum wages are to be paid. If work is not provided within 15 days of applying, applicants are entitled to an unemployment allowance. Thus, employment under MGNREGA is a legal entitlement.

Implications Of The Wage Hike

The authorization to announce revised wages under MGNREGA comes at a critical juncture – the Model Code of Conduct is in force across the country and the Lok Sabha elections are just a few days away. The decision to raise minimum wages to Rs 400 per day, if implemented, holds profound implications for millions of rural households dependent on MGNREGA for sustenance.

Political Ramifications

From a political standpoint, the timing of the wage hike announcement is noteworthy. As political parties intensify their election campaigns, issues related to rural development, farmer welfare, and employment generation take center stage. The MGNREGA wage hike could potentially sway voter sentiment in rural constituencies, where agrarian distress and unemployment remain pressing concerns.

Congress' Guarantees

In a bid to bolster its electoral prospects and resonate with diverse segments of society, the Congress party has further unveiled a comprehensive set of guarantees targeting farmers, women, workers, unemployed youths, and backward communities.

What Are Major Congress' Guarantees?

Farmers: The Congress has promised to overhaul existing agricultural policies, including amending the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime to exempt agricultural materials, redesigning the PM Fasal Bima Yojana to ensure timely compensation for crop loss, establishing a Standing Farm Loan Waiver Commission, and enacting legislation to grant Minimum Support Price (MSP) legal status.

Workers: The party has pledged to review labor codes, raise MGNREGA wages, pass a right-to-health law, and introduce an urban employment guarantee scheme.

Women: Congress aims to empower women through various initiatives, including social security measures and participatory justice programs.

Unemployed Youths: The party has proposed measures to address youth unemployment through skill development programs and job creation initiatives.

Backward Communities: Congress has committed to conducting a comprehensive social, economic, and caste census, removing the 50% cap on reservations, and allocating budgetary resources proportionate to the population share of Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).

The confluence of the MGNREGA wage hike and Congress' guarantees underscores the pivotal role of socio-economic welfare policies in shaping the electoral discourse. As political parties vie for voter support, issues of rural development, farmer welfare, and inclusive growth take precedence, setting the stage for a fiercely contested electoral battle in 2024.