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Testing information constraints on India's largest antipoverty program

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Public knowledge about India's ambitious Employment Guarantee Scheme is low in one of India's poorest states, Bihar, where participation is also unusually low. Is the solution simply to tell people their rights? Or does their lack of knowledge reflect deeper problems of poor people's agency and an unresponsive supply side?

In a recent working paper, Martin Ravallion, Dominique van de Walle, Puja Dutta and Rinku Murgai report on an information campaign that was designed and implemented in the form of an entertaining movie to inform people of their rights under the scheme. In randomly-assigned villages, the movie brought significant gains in knowledge and more positive perceptions about the impact of the scheme. But objectively measured employment showed no gain on average, suggesting that the movie created a "groupthink," changing social perceptions about the scheme but not individual efficacy in accessing it. The paper concludes that awareness generation needs to go hand-in-hand with supply-side changes.

Read the entire paper here.


Submitted by S Ajai Kumar on

This paper synchs with the existing knowledge and awareness levels of the grass root level communinities of MGNREGA. Even without implementing the movie, the results would have been the same. (not a challenge to the methodology) Various studies have proven that interpersonal communication methods are the effective media to reach out to the people; especially those in Bihar.
Demand for employment under MGNREGA is affected by many variables like
(i) Lack of knowledge on how to exercise their rights by applying for the job
(ii) Lack of knowledge about the number of days of employment to which they are entitled.
(iii) Lack of awareness about the time period within which wages are to be received.
(iv) Lack of awareness about the prescribed quantum of work which entitled full wage payment
(v) Lack of knowledge about the manner of wage calculations.
(vi) Lack of comprehensive knowledge about the Scheme
(vii) Wage differentials
(viii) Lack of infrastructure and capacity at GP/Block/District level
(ix) Delayed wage payments to the workers
(x) Delayed fund release to the GP etc
(xi) Availability of alternate employment opportunities in primary, secondary and tertiary sectors
(xii) Proximity to urban areas
(xiii) Visibility of the programme
(xiv) Lack of knowledge about the nature of works that can be taken up under MGNREGA.

Communication need assessment taken up by agencies like Prasar Bharathi, IIMC etc give a broader framework of the communication flow patterns and information needs of MGNREGA labours and various stake holders


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