India: Employment Guarantee Act (NPR)

NPR has been good on India lately.

The latest: India is considering an act that would guarantee one person in every poor household employment 100 days out of every year. They call in everyone's favorite free-market enthusiast, Gurcharan Das, to pour cold water on the idea as "socialist interventionism, doomed to fail."

SACW has a draft of the act.

The idea of doing this does sound a little questionable to me in some respects; there are too many ways for it to turn into yet another government scheme hampered, as so many Indian government schemes are, by too much bureaucracy and too little efficacy. But then: something like 400 million Indians continue to live in poverty. The trickle-down effect promised by liberalization advocates isn't working the way it should. Among the very poor, way too many people are unemployed. Moreover, the rural poor are moving to cities in India at alarming, even dangerous, rates. This might help slow that a little.

Though India is certainly not in the midst of a Great Depression (more like: the Great Endless Insufficient Progress), if this were well-managed, it might have an effect along the lines of that great American institution, the WPA, of generating lots of jobs, and some really impressive , lasting public-works projects along the way.