The need to institutionalise equality and eliminate poverty has led India to take a lead in evolving poverty alleviation programmes and introducing radical legislations. In this paper, we analyse the latest poverty alleviation legislation, viz., the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005, (NREGA) and the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008 (UWSSA). While poverty alleviation programmes were earlier primarily designed to address rural poverty and provide guaranteed employment to the poor, it is for the first time that the Government of India (GOI) has enacted legislation to provide social security to the poor in the entire country, not only in rural areas but also in urban areas with access to BPL cards. This has received critical attention from both supporters and opponents. The supporters say that the NREGA gives rights to the poor for the first time. These rights help slow down distress sale of land and restrict migration, free bonded labourers from extra-legal relations of patronage and make women empowered. The opponents of this Act argue that it promotes corruption due to political and administrative inefficiencies, yielding more costs rather than benefits.
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