The Central government gave its nod for people to take up jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) from April 20,2020. But the relaxation of rules came in with certain restrictions. The government asked the states to ensure that jobs requiring not more than 4-5 people can be undertaken, Kannada Prabha, a Kannada daily reported.
Besides that, the Centre also asked the states to strictly implement social distancing norms and that the MGNREGS workers should face masks. The moves comes in the wake of the coronavirus infection, as the government wants to ensure that the infection does not spread to the rural areas.
‘Works like digging of wells and troughs, developing of individual lands like land levelling and shaping, waste land development, plantation activities, can be undertaken either individual or with less than 4 people,” said Additional director of MGNREGS, Tamil Nadu, G Muthumeenal. She added that it would not be a hindrance as the as it agriculture season in many parts and hence asset creation under the scheme would not be a problem.
The MGNREGS data shows that March and April are the peak seasons where people take up more jobs. However, due to COVID-19 lockdown, jobs demands dropped by 98 percent in the month of April (upto April 17). With fund shortage and delayed payment, the scheme was already under trouble.
The employment generated in the previous fiscal was lower than the previous year, and far below the estimated numbers. The Federal reported in January that between April-December last year, 189 crore person-days were accounted as against the estimated (based on previous years) 219 crore person days of work. While, 8 crore people across the country demanded jobs, only about 6.5 crore people were granted jobs. There is a rise in demand for work from various drought/flood-hit states.
Meanwhile, the Rural Development Ministry on April 14, 2020 announced that it transferred all the pending dues to the workers’ accounts. Besides it also increased the MGNREGS daily wages in the range of ₹13-34.