This 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 an average of 18 crore person days of work in April-May period of this fiscal, as against 22.1 crore/month in 2019-20, government data showed. This 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.
Apparently, there was a sudden surge in MGNREGS jobs since the first week of May. While only 9.15 crore person days were created between April 1 and May 10, during the next 20 days, 27 crore person days were created under the scheme. The easing of lockdown started from second week of May.
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, a larger number of durable and livelihood assets can be created.
In 2019-20, a total 265.34 crore person days of work had been created under the scheme, while the figure was 268 crore in the year before.
The Centre released Rs 21,753 crore or 35% of the original annual budget outlay under the scheme in the first 40 days of the current financial year, 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 1 in the current financial year was Rs 439 crore, against Rs 196 crore in 2019-20 and Rs 170 crore in 2018-19.
According to the rural development ministry, a total of 38.6 crore person days of work have been created under MGNRGES till June 1. On Monday, 2.73 crore workers were there in the field working on 1.65 lakh work sites. Community-based work could not be carried out in full volume for most of April and May due to lockdown in many parts of the country.
The average daily wage per person under the scheme in the current fiscal has been Rs 201.29, 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.
The Centre had released Rs 71,248 crore under MGNREGS in 2019-20 and Rs 61,125 crore in 2018-19. The revised estimate for the scheme invariably tends to be larger than the Budget Estimates made at the start of the year, in what shows the popularity of the Scheme, which is much in demand among the rural poor.
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was notified on September 7, 2005. It provides for a minimum of 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every rural household whose adult member volunteers to do unskilled manual work. An additional 50 days of wage employment are provided over and above 100 days in the notified drought affected areas or natural calamity areas and to every Scheduled Tribe household in a forest area.