Networks and Anti-poverty Programs: Experience of India's National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme

By Shylashri Shankar and Raghav Gaiha
European Journal of Development Research, 10 September 2012

Governments struggle with the reality that the beneficiaries of anti-poverty programs are powerless to influence policies and prevent the possibility of capture of benefits by the non-poor. Networks – social and political – are supposed to increase the ability of the less-powerful to access their entitlements. This article assesses whether socially and politically networked households do in fact have better awareness of the components of the program and of the processes of decision making, and whether such networking makes them more likely to vocalise their dissatisfaction when their entitlements are threatened. India's national rural employment guarantee scheme's institutional design (mandating village assemblies to authorise decisions on the projects) makes it a good test case. Our results show that links to social and political networks significantly increase the beneficiary's awareness of the program's components and enhances the ability to seek redress.