No state provided 100 days of work under MGNREGA in FY22: Govt data
Despite rising poverty, the rural job scheme is not implemented at its full capacity, and inadequate allocation is a key reason for that
Forget 150 days, none of the states were able to provide even 100 days of guaranteed wage employment per household under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) last fiscal.
This is in sharp contrast to the recommendations of a standing committee on rural development, which suggested that the number of guaranteed work days under the scheme be increased to 150 from the current 100 days.
“The committee strongly recommends to the department of rural development to undertake a holistic review of the scheme MGNREGA in such a way which could ensure an increase of guaranteed days of work from 100 to 150 days,” the parliamentary panel had said in its report submitted to the Lok Sabha in February this year.
Just above 50 days on an average
Data from the Ministry of Rural Development showed that on an average only 50.03 days of employment were actually provided under the scheme in the country during the 2021-22 financial year.
Even in the previous fiscal, when the demand for jobs under the scheme spiked due to the pandemic-induced lockdown, the average days of employment provided per household in the country was marginally better at 51.52 per cent.
The number of average work days provided under the scheme further dropped in almost all the states after the lockdown was lifted, according to the scheme’s implementation data for FY22. Only the small north-eastern state of Mizoram could manage to go near the target. The average days of employment per household provided by the state in FY22 was 94.65, up from 92.94 days in FY21.
The average days of employment per household increased only in 10 other states in FY22 compared to the previous financial year. These were: Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh.
But these states also fell way short of the targeted 100 days of guaranteed employment. Many of them could not even provide 50 days of employment on an average, clearly showing the scheme is not implemented at its full capacity.
Experts cite inadequate allocation as one of the main reasons for the inability of states to provide at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a fiscal year to all rural households whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work on demand.
A budgetary allocation of ₹2.64 lakh-crore would have been required in FY23 to provide legally guaranteed 100 days of work per household, according to Anuj Goyal of Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG). The engagement of contractors and machinery in certain cases is also negatively impacting the allocation of work to rural households, he added.
He also suggested that the scope of the scheme needs to be expanded further by bringing in new sectors under its purview to create more demand.
PAEG is a group of academicians and activists attempting to ensure better implementation of NREGA via research, advocacy and public intervention.
Debmalya Nandy, an activist with the organisation NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, told The Federal that since the budget is inadequate, the administration artificially suppresses the demand, thereby depriving employment to many villagers. He added that with the current budgetary allocation of ₹73,000 crore for the scheme, 30 days of work at the most can be provided to around 7.5 crore households registered under the scheme in the current fiscal if supplementary allocation is not made.
Another factor that is marginally impacting the average days of employment, Nandy said, is a little technical. “How they calculate the average employment days for households also impacts the figure. The figure is derived by dividing the total number of man-days generated by the total number of households. Now, lots of families get their job cards done in the latter parts of the year. Those who make their job cards at the fag-end do not have the scope to get full 100 days of employment. They get 15-20 days of work. That also brings down the average,” he explained.
“The actual average,” he said, “would be slightly better. For instance, if the recorded average days is 50 than in reality it will be 55 or 60 days.” Even that is far lower than the promised 100 days of employment.
Delay in supplementary allocation
“In case of the MGNREGA, we have been seeing in the last five to six years the trend is that the government exhausts 80-85 per cent of the budget in the first four to five months of the fiscal year,” Nandy told The Federal. “And then, the government takes lots of time to allocate supplementary allocation. In between there is delayed payment and other lengthy administrative processes, which lead to artificial suppression of demand. As a result, you get a poor average.”
Though the allocation of work in 2021-22 dipped in most states in comparison to 2020-21, Nandy refuted the contention that the demand for rural jobs has shrunk post pandemic.
Various unemployment, hunger and poverty data clearly indicate that the demand for rural jobs is still high, he said. According to a recent report of the Azim Premji University, around 2.9 million more people have turned poor in the country, he added.
“We are also seeing that 10-15 per cent of the migrant families who had returned to their villages during the pandemic have not migrated again. So, the demand for the jobs under the MGNREGA is actually more than ever before and it will remain so for the next two to three years at least,” he further said.orget 150 days, none of the states were able to provide even 100 days of guaranteed wage employment per household under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) last fiscal.