The 12% year-on-year rise indicates that despite the lockdown, the Centre’s accelerated release of funds under the popular jobs scheme and the support provided by most states ensured that the scheme indeed provided timely relief to the rural poor.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) produced 107.82 crore person days of work in the first three months of the current fiscal year as against 96.49 crore during the corresponding period of the last fiscal, according to government data. The 12% year-on-year rise indicates that despite the lockdown, the Centre’s accelerated release of funds under the popular jobs scheme and the support provided by most states ensured that the scheme indeed provided timely relief to the rural poor.
After a lull in April, when the person days of work created stood at 14.12 crore, the lowest since 2016-17, there was a sudden surge in MGNREGS jobs since the first week of May. The easing of lockdown from the second week of May helped generating more jobs resulting in creation of total person days in May to a record of 56.8 crore, taking the cumulative number for the first two months to 70.92 crore. And, in June, another 36.88 crore person days were created.
To ensure that crores of migrant labourers who have gone back to their villages find enough job opportunities, the government has allocated an additional Rs 40,000 crore under the MGNREGS for the current fiscal, over and above Rs 61,500 crore allocated in the Budget for 2020-21. Announcing this, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said with the infusion, nearly 300 crore person days of jobs can be generated in 2020-21, helping creation of a larger number of durable and livelihood assets. Further the government also launched a Rs 50,000-crore rural-centric Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan that focuses on boosting livelihood opportunities for returnee migrant workers.
In 2019-20, a total 265.36 crore person days of work had been created under the scheme, while the figure was 268 crore in the year before.
The Centre has so far released Rs 39,000 crore or 63% of the original annual budget outlay under the scheme, as it sought to use the popular scheme to alleviate the distress of migrant workers returning to their villages in large numbers.
The average daily release of funds under the scheme till June 30 in the current financial year was Rs 428 crore, against Rs 196 crore in 2019-20 and Rs 170 crore in 2018-19.
According to the rural development ministry, the average daily wage per person under the scheme in the current fiscal has been Rs 199.21, compared with Rs 182 in 2019-20, indicating that wages have indeed been increased. The MGNREGS funds released by the Centre so far in the current financial year includes arrears of the last fiscal.