Hesitancy to turn up for MGNREGS work on the decline as Covid scare subsides

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September 07, 2021 1:45 AM

Around 82% of the individuals who were 'offered' work under MGNREGS turned up for it till September 3 in the current financial year as against around 84% in the last two years

This goal has never been met, but the achievement this year could be closer to the threshold.This goal has never been met, but the achievement this year could be closer to the threshold.

Around 82% of the individuals who were ‘offered’ work under the rural employment guarantee scheme (MGNREGS) turned up for it till September 3 in the current financial year as against around 84% in the last two years and 69% till June 1 this year.

This indicates that rural people are, of late, taking up more MG-NREGS jobs, shedding their hesitancy to be exposed to the virus in the initial months of the current financial year.

Against a total of 9.48 crore individuals who demanded work till September 3 of the current fiscal, 9.4 crore were offered work, but only 7.68 crore took up work, according to the MG-NREGS dashboard.

The monthly demand for work under the scheme remains elevated. Four crore individuals demanded work in April this year, 4.1 crore in May, five crore in June, the highest in 12 months. In July, 4.3 crore persons demanded work. The number is down to 3.18 crore in August, but is likely to revised upward in the next few days since collating data takes time. In June last year, a record 6.3 crore persons demanded work.

Curiously, even as the demand for work is high, people are unable to grab all the work offered. There could be a ‘communication gap’ between the officers at the block/gram panchayat level and the workers, so that “work offers” are much less than reported officially.

Around 174 crore person days of work have already been generated so far in the current fiscal under the scheme which provides subsistence wages against 389.2 crore person days of work generated in the whole of 2020-21,

The government was quite liberal with disbursal of MG-NREGS funds in the weeks that followed last year’s lock-down – person days shot up to 57 crore and 64 crore respectively in May and June last year from an average of 22.1 crore/month in 2019-20. Though the rate declined since, a higher level of MG-NREGS work was maintained throughout 2020-21, resulting in the spike in the budget outlay for the scheme to Rs 1.11 lakh crore from Rs 61,500 crore originally estimated.

However, this time around, the government seems to be more economical with the spend on the scheme – at least there isn’t evidence of a loosening of the purse strings by it as yet. The Budget outlay for the scheme in 2021-22 is Rs 73,000 crore. The government might have to allocate more fund to meet the need for the demand-driven scheme as the Centre has already released Rs 52,215 crore fund to feed the scheme.

The scheme’s mandate under the MGNREG Act 2005 is to provide at least 100 days of ‘wage employment’ in a financial year to every rural household whose adult member volunteers to do unskilled manual work. This goal has never been met, but the achievement this year could be closer to the threshold.

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