national crisis

Sonia Gandhi

This is a time of national crisis, not a time to play politics : Sonia Gandhi’s article

MGNREGA : The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), 2005 is a shining example of a radical and rational systemic change. It is radical because it transferred power to the poorest of the poor and enabled them to escape hunger and deprivation. It is rational because it puts money directly in the hands of those who need it most. It has proved its worth in the years it has been in existence, even enduring six years of a hostile government. A government that sought to denigrate it, undermine it has come to reluctantly rely on it. Along with the Public Distribution System put in place by an earlier Congress government, it is the mainstay for our poorest and most vulnerable citizens in preventing starvation and destitution wherever implemented in letter and spirit, especially in today’s COVID-19 crisis.   Let us not forget that the notification of MGNREGA in September 2005 as an Act of Parliament came about because of a people’s movement after years of struggle by civil society. The Congress party listened to their voices and to those of the people. It became a commitment in our 2004 Manifesto and those of us who pressed hardest for it are proud that the UPA government implemented it as soon as feasible. The idea was simple: any citizen in rural India now had the legal right to demand work and guaranteed 100 days of work with minimum wages provided by the government. And it proved its worth very quickly, a grassroots, demand-driven, Right to Work programme, unprecedented in its scale and architecture, focused on poverty alleviation. Millions have been saved from hunger and worse in the 15 years  since its inception. Mahatma Gandhi said, “When ridicule fails to kill a movement it begins to command respect”. In independent India there is no better example of this coming true than MGNREGA. On assuming office, Prime Minister Modi realised that shutting down the scheme was not practical. Instead he sought to deride it, attacking the Congress party in a caustic speech in which he called it  “a living monument of your…