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NREGA: Denying Job Cards to Deny Jobs

Blog Post1 min read

In the last post, we saw how more than half of all rural households (55%) who wanted to work under NREGA, did not get even a days work in year 2009-10. All these households are entitled to unemployment allowance under NREGA Act. Few ever get it. Instead, state governments fudge data to show that every household that demanded employment got at least some.

How do they do it?

The employment and unemployment survey (EUS) shows that nearly one-third (32%) of all households in rural India, who sought employment in NREGA, did not have a job-card. In Bihar, Maharashtra, and Haryana, more than two-thirds (68%) of households interested in working in NREGA did not have job-cards. In Karnataka (52%) and UP (47%) too, nearly half of all interested households did not have job cards.

You need to have the job-card to get work in NREGA just as you need the ration-card to get subsidized food from the public distribution system (PDS). 97% of people who wanted to work under NREGA, but did not have job-cards, did not get any work. Officials, however, find it harder to deny employment to those who have the job card. Among job-card owners, 81% got some employment if they demanded it. Even in a state like Bihar, where NREGA’s implementation is shoddier than in other states, 83% of interested households with job cards got at least some work. If we look at all households of Bihar, only 21% got employment if they demanded it. Nationally too, this fraction is only 45% as mentioned in the previous post. Thus, denying job-cards is the way to deny employment in NREGA and it also helps to fudge data.


r.i.c.e. is a nonprofit research organization, dedicated to understanding the lives of poor people, especially young children, in India, and to promoting their well-being.

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