Despite the growing optimism about India’s economic growth, and the unprecedented highs of the Indian stock market, life beyond the thriving cities remains bleak. India still has more people living below the poverty line than any other country in the world.
Against this backdrop, India’s new “National Rural Employment Guarantee Act,” which guarantees 100 days of employment per year to every rural household, has provoked both high hopes and widespread skepticism. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently described this initiative as “historic,” saying the program “will help us get rid of the scourge of poverty, disease and indebtness.” Now India faces the challenge of ensuring that corruption does not eviscerate an act that could potentially change the face of rural India. Hope for success rests on another new law – India’s powerful new information access act. Citizens’ groups plan to use their new right to know to monitor whether the Employment Guarantee Act is working. If they succeed, they could pioneer an effective new means of overcoming the obstacles to reaching the worlds poorest.
To address these issues and others, Brookings Senior Fellow Ann Florini moderated a discussion with Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey, founding members of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan – one of the key organizations behind both the Right to Information Law and the Employment Guarantee Act.