Aiding AIDS: fallouts of a social protection scheme in India

The public works program (PWP), the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in India, opened a new chapter in rural governance, signifying transformative potential for enhancing economic and social security. Despite the aim of this social protection scheme to enhance the “livelihood security of the household”, provide employment to landless labourers, and encourage sustainable development, young men still opt to be migrant labourers in Bombay, many of whom become infected with AIDS and subsequently die. Often economic returns outweigh social risks and the new channels of disempowerment it reopens for women and children who are dependent on the income of these migrant men. We draw on ethnographic research conducted in Udaisarai (Gram Panchayat), Bhitaura block in Fatehpur District (Uttar Pradesh), to uncover rural-to-urban migration to Bombay, for better employment opportunities, and AIDS as one of the fallouts of the poor implementation of MNREGA. These pressing concerns need to be critically evaluated.