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Activism Nrega

Activism Nrega

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Published by Amen Xavier Kaushal

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Published by: Amen Xavier Kaushal on Jun 30, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Candidate No. 89493
Can Rights be ensured through activism? The role of civil society organisationsand challenges faced ensuring the proper implementation of the National RuralEmployment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in India.Introduction
Countless efforts and joining hands together of numbers of activists, academics andpoliticians made the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act(MGNREGA)
a vital piece of legislation with which to improve the condition of therural workforce in terms of rights. It can be seen as an outcome of a long and complexprocess of intercession, advocacy and political lobbying (Ghosh 2006, p. 95).Activists from different parts of the country campaigned for guaranteed employmentfor the rural work force and effective members of the government played an importantrole in pushing the agenda forward against the resistance of other political actors(MacAuslan 2008, p.1). Finally, it came into force in 2005 with the hope that this willprovide the rural labour force with the exercise of the right to work.
The MGNREGA (‘the Act’) not only has tremendous potential to ensure social
security to the poor but also has greater potential to mobilise the community, ensuringtransparency and accountability in the systems and structures (Aiyer and Samji 2006,p.320). In this context the role of the civil society organisation (CSO) is crucial. Theyhave a greater responsibility and capability to mobilise the community to make thisAct effective because the individuals, as well as the community, always organisedthemselves and showed their collectiveness under the umbrella of organisation due totheir strength and effectiveness (Obiyan 2005, p.301).
MGNREGA is an Indianjob guaranteescheme, enacted by legislation on August 25, 2005 introduced as National RuralEmployment Guarantee Act (NREGA) but was renamed on 2 October 2009.
Candidate No. 89493
In the past five and half years the Act has had both positive and negative experiencesacross the country. Most of the civil society organisations working with a rights basedapproach adopted the MGNREGA and focussed on effective implementation of thesame through activism. In spite of the nationwide engagement of CSOs with theMGNREGA, some places experienced positive outcomes and some negative. Thisposed a question to all the development actors:
‘What constitutes the potential
activism to ensure the proper implementation of the Act and thus ensure the rights of 
the individual entitled to them?’
 This article explores the power of activism and the role of CSOs to ensure the rightsof people through activism. For substantiating the core argument regarding the role of activism in ensuring such rights, the paper examines the success story of MGNREGAin Rajasthan, emphasising the MKSS
intervention area as a sample and the non-intervention area as a control.Section one of the article explains the conceptual understanding and the relationshipof the civil society organisations and activism. Section two focuses upon MGNREGAas a significant tool for the civil society organisations in initiating mass participationand strengthening community activism by discussing the ground-breaking role of activist, Aruna Roy, and MKSS in Rajasthan for making MGNREGA a reality.Section Three discusses the analytical relationship between the role of CSO inactivism and ensuring the rights of the marginalised with good practices, and also thedifficulties faced by the CSOs in ensuring these rights. The last section comprises a
Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathanis a grassroots organization formed in 1990, working in rural Rajasthan. This union of 
 peasants and workers, operating under the slogan Equality and Justice for All, has become one of India’s most potent social
 justice movements.
Candidate No. 89493
concluding note with further recommendations for the civil society organisations toenhance their activism and make the Act a successful one.
Civil society organisation and activism
In today’s world where claims of social justice are increasing, the role of 
civil societyorganisations is increasing. The claims for social justice are based on two differentprinciples. The first is redistributive and the second is recognition. Both theperspectives give a foundation for activism to the civil society organisations. Theredistributive principle of social justice emphasises the just distribution of resourcesand materials whereas the second is based on political recognition. (Fraser 2008, p. 1).To establish the redistributive and recognition justice all the civil societyorganisations emphasise activism. Activism ensures the empowerment of people andtheir effective participation in the whole process. The two concepts of the civil societyorganisation and activism form the structure and function of a process where the CSOgives the structural foundation and the activism ensures the functional base.In order to understand civil society and activism and their role in ensuring the rights,it is necessary to define civil society organisation and activism. The question,
‘Whatis a civil society organisation?’ does not come up with a single answer, which means
it is a source for a diverse collection of different political aspirations (Fine 1997, p.7).
‘Civil society is the sphere of public activity of private individuals
who believe them
to be endowed with rights and act as autonomous subjects’ (Kumar 2000, p. 2776).
The concept of civil society has been considered as an effective mechanism by whichto develop and sustain democracy (Zompetti 2006, p. 167). Thus the notion of rightsand activism is crucial in the life of a civil society organisation. Individuals with a

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