MGNREGS: ‘Monument of failure’ or ‘saviour’?

On the 10th anniversary of the rural job guarantee scheme, Down To Earth evaluates its successes and drawbacks
Consecutive crop failures due to droughts and unseasonal rains have led to a rise in demand for jobs under MGNREGS (Photo: Jitendra)
Consecutive crop failures due to droughts and unseasonal rains have led to a rise in demand for jobs under MGNREGS (Photo: Jitendra)

The new survey shows that rural households have higher debts than their urban counterparts. At the same time, an urban household owns more than double the asset than that of a rural household. Of the total, 31.4 per cent rural households are under debt as opposed to 22.4 per cent urban households.

According to the 70th round of Households Assets and Liabilities survey by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), the debt to asset ratio of urban households is 3.7 whereas the ratio for rural households stands at 3.2. This means that the average urban household has more debt than asset in comparison to rural household.

Assets include all items that are owned by the household and have monetary value. These includes physical assets like land, buildings, livestock, agricultural machinery and implements, non-farm business equipment, all transport-related equipment, financial assets like dues receivable on loans advanced in cash or kind, shares in companies and cooperative societies, banks, national saving certificates and the like, deposits in companies, banks, post offices and with individuals.

According to the data, average amount of debt per household stands at Rs84,600 and Rs32,500 in urban and rural households respectively.

A rural household, on an average, owned assets of Rs10 lakh, which was less than half of assets owned by the urban household (Rs23 lakh).

Demographical division of assets

Non-agriculture households have more than double the assets, in terms of monetary value, as compared to agriculture households. Households headed by females, both farming and non-farming ones, lag in asset value as compared to male-headed households. The difference in the ratio is larger in agriculture households than the non-agriculture ones.  

The gap in the asset value of the highest 10 per cent income decile and lowest 10 per cent income decile households is much higher in urban areas versus the rural.

The lowest 10 per cent of India’s rural households have an average asset value of Rs25,071. The lowest 10 per cent of the urban households, on the other hand, had an average asset value of Rs291, showing that the poorest urban population owns very little assets.

The top 10 per cent of rural households, ranked by assets, has average assets worth Rs57 lakh. The top 10 per cent of the urban population, on the other hand, has average asset of Rs1.46 crore.

Assets in various states

The ranking of states in terms of their rural assets values has not changed much in last three decade. Haryana, followed by Punjab and Kerala, have maintained their highest ranking in terms of average asset value. Orissa stands at the lowest of the ladder.

State-wise average asset value for rural households

Haryana Rs. 46.17 lakh


Rs. 42.95 lakh
Kerala 27.30 lakh
West Bengal Rs. 4.07 lakh
Andhra Pradesh Rs. 4.12 lakh
Assam Rs. 5.03 lakh
Odisha Rs. 2.81 lakh

State-wise average asset value for urban households

Maharashtra Rs. 43.37 lakh


Rs. 40.24 lakh
Haryana Rs. 36.78 lakh
Odisha Rs. 4.07 lakh
Jharkhand Rs. 9.73lakh
Andhra Pradesh Rs. 9.91 lakh each

There are only seven states where rural assets have increased in the last two decades. Urban assets have not changed sharply in the same period.

Composition of assets

Land and building jointly constitute 94 per cent of all assets, followed by machinery equipments at 2.8 per cent, livestock and poultry at 1.6 per cent and financial assets.

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