The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development has recommended a hike in the guaranteed days of work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MG-NREGS) to at least 150 days in a year, from 100 now, for every rural household.
The committee, headed by Shiv Sena MP Prataprao Jadhav, said, “The Committee are of firm opinion that the ‘need of the hour’ is to further diversify the nature of works under MGNREGA in such manner and through such mechanisms which could also propel the number of guaranteed working days under MGNREGA to at least 150 days from the current 100 days.”
However, as per the MG-NREGS dashboard, against the scheme’s mandate to provide at least 100 days of ‘wage employment’ in a financial year to every rural household, 45.13 days of employment have been provided so far in the current fiscal on an average to rural households, compared with 51.52 days in the last fiscal and 48.4 days in 2019-20.
The committee said the ambit of permissible works under MGNREGA require a much more frequent revision for including such works which are felt utmost necessary at the local levels, through a process of dialogue with concerned stakeholders.
“Particularly, works such as construction of bunds which would stop the land erosion/cutting due to flow of rivers during the time of floods in various parts of the country definitely merit a serious look. Other works such as boundary works for croplands/agricultural fields in order to protect them from grazing animals are a valid demand,” the committee said.
Works can also be added in area-specific manner through specific orders for a fixed time period.
Acknowledging that the MGNREGA is a demand driven scheme, the committee is bewildered with the significant upward revision for the scheme to the revised estimate (RE) stage from the budgetary estimate (BE) stage and suggested that the budgetary allocation of a scheme of such enormous magnitude should be done in a more pragmatic manner so that there is no dearth.
“In the financial year 2018-19, the BE was hiked from Rs 55,000 crore to Rs 61,830.09 crore, from Rs 60,000 crore to Rs 71,001.81 crore in 2019-20, from Rs 61,500 crore to Rs 1,11,500 crore in 2020-21, while during the ongoing financial year 2021-22, from the allocated BE of Rs 73,000 crore, Rs 52,228.84 crore have already been spent by 01.09.2021 i.e. in only six months,” it said.
“Thus, the Committee are of the view that the scheme is definitely showing an increase in demand as elicited by the ever-increasing budgetary demand. Moreover, it is also quite perplexing as to the rationale behind keeping the BE for 2021-22 at Rs 73,000 crore while in the previous financial year, the expenditure was to the tune of Rs 1,11,170.86 crore,” it said.