Fighting Maoist violence with promises: Evidence from India’s Employment Guarantee Scheme


  • Gaurav Khanna Ph.D. candidate in Economics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
  • Laura Zimmermann Ph.D. candidate in Economics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA



The Indian state faces a substantial internal security threat in the form of a Maoist insurgency, but decades of relying predominantly on military strength have not been a successful strategy for resolving the conflict. Recently, there has been a growing interest in whether anti-poverty programs can increase the effectiveness of the government forces by improving the relationship between citizens and the state and making civilians more willing to share information on insurgents. A prime candidate for such a program is the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), the world’s largest public-works program. We find that the introduction of NREGS leads to an increase in violence in the short run that is driven by police-initiated attacks, and an increase in the number of captured Maoists. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that civilians assist the police because of NREGS, and suggest that the role of civilians in internal conflicts should not be ignored.


Bakshi, G.D. 2009. “Left Wing Extremism in India: Context, Implications and Response Options.” Manekshaw Paper No. 9.

Barron, P., K. Kaiser, and M. Pradhan. 2004. “Local Conflict in Indonesia: Measuring Incidence and Identifying Patterns.” World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, 3384. 1813-9450-3384.

Berg, E., S. Bhattacharyya, R. Durgam, and M. Ramachandra. 2012. “Can Rural Public Works Affect Agricultural Wages? Evidence from India.” Centre for the Study of African Economies, Oxford University. Working Paper WPS/2012-05.

Berman, E., J.N. Shapiro, and J.H. Felter. 2011. “Can Hearts and Minds Be Bought? The Economics of Counterinsurgency in Iraq.” Journal of Political Economy. Vol. 119, No. 4, pp. 766-819.

Collier, P. and A. Hoeffler. 2007. “Civil War,” in K. Hartley and T. Sandler, eds. Handbook of Defense Economics. Vol. 1. Amsterdam: Elsevier North Holland.

Do, Q.-T. and I. Lakshmi. 2007. “Poverty, Social Divisions and Conflict in Nepal.” Unpublished working paper. Harvard Business School.

Crost, B., J. Felter, and P. Johnston. 2012. “Conditional Cash Transfers and Civil Conflict: Experimental Evidence from the Philippines.” Mimeo.

Crost, B., J. Felter, and P. Johnston. Forthcoming (forthcoming). “Aid Under Fire: Development Projects and Civil Conflict.” American Economic Review.

Dey, N., J. Dreze, and R. Khera. 2006. Employment Guarantee Act: A Primer. Delhi: National Book Trust, India.

Government of India. 2009. “The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.”

Humphreys, M. and J.M. Weinstein. 2008. “Who Fights? The Determinants of Participation in Civil War.” American Journal of Political Science. Vol. 52, No., 2, pp. 436-455.

Imbert, C. and J. Papp. 2013. “Labor Market Effects of Social Programs: Evidence of India’s Employment Guarantee.” Centre for the Study of African Economies. Oxford University. Working Paper WPS/2013-03.

Kujur, R. 2009. “Naxal Conflict in 2008: An Assessment.” Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. Issue Brief. New Delhi.

Khanna, G. and L. Zimmermann. 2013. “Guns and Butter? Fighting Violence with the Promise of Development.” Mimeo.

Lalwani, S. 2011. “India’s Approach to Counterinsurgency and the Naxalite Problem.” (Combating Terrorism Center) CTC Sentinel. Vol. 4, No. 10, pp. 5-9. counterinsurgency-and-the-naxalite-problem.

Miguel, E., S. Satyanath, and E. Sergenti. 2004. “Economic Shocks and Civil Conflict: An Instrumental Variables Approach.” Journal of Political Economy. Vol. 112, No. 4, pp. 725-753.

Miguel, E. and S. Satyanath. 2011. “Re-examining Economic Shocks and Civil Conflict.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics. Vol. 3, No. 4, pp. 228-232.

Ministry of Home Affairs. Government of India. 2006. “Annual Report 2006-2007.”

Ministry of Rural Development. Department of Rural Development. Government of India. 2010. “Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005– Report to the People 2nd Feb. 2006–2nd Feb. 2010.”

Mukherji, N. 2012. The Maoists in India: Tribals under Siege. London: Pluto Press.

Murshed, S.M. and S. Gates. 2005. “Spatial-Horizontal Inequality and the Maoist Insurgency in Nepal.” Review of Development Economics. Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 121-134.

Nunn, N. and N. Qian. 2012. “Aiding Conflict: The Impact of U.S. Food Aid on Civil War.” NBER Working Paper No. 17794. National Bureau of Economic Research. Cambridge, MA.

Sundar, N. 2011. “At War with Oneself: Constructing Naxalism as India’s Biggest Security Threat,” in M. Kugelman, ed. India’s Contemporary Security Challenges. Princeton, NJ: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Asia Program.

Zimmermann, L. 2013. “Why Guarantee Employment? Evidence from a Large Indian Public-Works Program." Mimeo.




How to Cite

Khanna, G., & Zimmermann, L. (2014). Fighting Maoist violence with promises: Evidence from India’s Employment Guarantee Scheme. The Economics of Peace and Security Journal, 9(1).