Cyclone Amphan generates momentum for MGNREGA works in West Bengal

The government has made certain relaxations for the affected districts to take up restoration works

MGNREGA
Squashing all expectations, the Budget 2021-22 has cut back on the allocations to MGNREGA and other rural schemes. Photo: iStock

Cyclone Amphan has brought momentum in the allocation of works under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the affected districts of West Bengal by creating demand for jobs.

The state’s Panchayat and Rural Development department has made certain relaxations for the affected districts to take up the restoration works. Generally, assets creation is given priority while allocating jobs under the scheme.

Now, the department has given go-ahead to take up works in 28 categories in the affected districts, prioritising renovation and repairing of embankments, check dams, anganwadi centres, panchayat buildings, healthcare centres, schools, community ponds, and cyclone shelters, among others.

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“Avenues for allocation of works have opened up after the department notified that jobs can be allotted in 28 categories including post-cyclone restoration works. Now, panchayats are not facing problems in earmarking works,” said Anirban Basu, nodal officer for the scheme in Hooghly, one of the eight worst cyclone-hit districts.

Related news: Jobless graduates look for MGNREGA works in Uttar Pradesh: Report

Works have started in all the 207 panchayats in the district to complete the ongoing 44,000 works.

Even before the cyclone made landfall, MV Rao, additional chief secretary, Panchayat and Rural Development department, had written to the district magistrates and all the district programme coordinators, urging them to allocate works under MGNREGA for restoration of “waterlogged areas.”

The home ministry on April 15 gave a go-ahead to resume works, except in containment zones, under the country’s flagship rural employment project.

In a video-conference with district magistrates, Panchayat and Rural Development Minister Subrata Mukherjee had recently asked them to prepare a detailed database of the migrant workers and provide them job cards under the MGNREGA.

Since the resumption of work, the state has generated 467.15 person-days’ work, providing an average 19.07 days of work per household. The number of ongoing MGNREGA projects in West Bengal is 17,17,470, much higher than the other bigger states, such as Uttar Pradesh (10,13,660), Madhya Pradesh (7,43,140), Maharashtra (5,26,740) and Tamil Nadu (3,27,440). Only Bihar, with 17,54,050 ongoing works, is slightly ahead of Bengal.

Related news: Fund shortage, delayed payments put MGNREGA and workers in peril

Of the 43.62 lakh people who have registered under the scheme, 31.53 lakh got jobs in the state as on June 7, which means 72.28 per cent got the job. This is higher than the all-India average of 65.23 percent.

The work allocation under the scheme got further push as the state government decided to route a part of the flood relief it announced for the affected people through the MGNREGA.

For building houses, the state government had announced to pay ₹48,000 each to five lakh affected families. Of this amount, ₹20,000 is credited to the account, while the remaining ₹28,000 is to be adjusted with their wages for 100 days of work under the MGNREGA.

Similarly, out of the ₹200 crore that the government had allocated for the affected betel-leaf farmers, ₹50 crore is being given as a grant, while ₹150 crore will be routed through the MGNREGA.

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