India’s rural employment guarantee program MNREGA has been ranked the world’s largest public works programme by the World Bank. The programme, which falls under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, provides social security to almost 15 percent of the country’s population.
A World Bank Group Report titled ‘The State of Social Safety Nets 2015’ also states that India is one of the five middle-income countries running the world’s largest social safety net programmes.
“The world’s five largest social safety net programmes are all in middle-income countries (China, India, South Africa and Ethiopia) and reach over 526 million people,” it added.
In the same report, India’s Mid-day meal scheme has been ranked as the world’s biggest school feeding programme reaching out to 105 million beneficiaries.
In the public works programme category, MNREGA took the top honours for reaching out to 182 million beneficiaries or 15 percent of India’s population.
Among social security programmes with conditional cash transfers, the Janani Suraksha Yojna with 78 million beneficiaries took the top spot.
The Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme was ranked as the second-largest unconditional cash transfer social security programme in the world.
“The World Bank Group and the ILO share a vision of social protection for all, a world where anyone who needs social protection can access it at any time,” said Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group President and Guy Ryder, Executive Director, ILO, in their joint statement.
“There is a strong body of evidence that these programmes ensure poor families can invest in the health and education of their children, improve their productivity, and cope with shocks,” he said.
Most of the well-designed programs in these awarded categories take only about 1.5 or 1.9 percent of a country’s GDP, which is far less than what governments usually spend on fuel subsidies alone.