Monsoon deficit spikes rural job demand under MGNREGS

Job demands in some states higher than recorded in COVID-19 pandemic

By Himanshu Nitnaware
Published: Friday 08 September 2023
Representative photo: iStock

This story has been updated

A deficit in monsoon over the past three months has resulted in skewing the employment pattern under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

As monsoon enters the second week of September, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the country has a rainfall deficit of 40 per cent.

The poor rainfall has resulted in agricultural distress and increased employment percentage under the MGNREGS. As per the data available at the Management Information System (MIS) of the rural employment scheme’s website, the percentage of demand for job has increased significantly if compared with the pre-pandemic scenario. 

Compared to June, July and August 2023, the peak monsoon months, the demand has escalated by 32.6 per cent, 28 per cent and 31.12 per cent, respectively. 

Read more: Jharkhand may be declared drought-hit again this year

Chakradhar Buddha, researcher at LibTech India, a platform for social workers, engineers and social scientists working towards improvement of public service delivery said, “The demand in reality should be much higher given that over 50 million MGNREGS job card holders dropped from the scheme in 2022-23.”

Buddha said there is a correlation between the failed monsoon and the rise in job demand. “Usually, we observe that 85 per cent of the employment in Andhra Pradesh under the scheme is generated in four pre-monsoon months, while the remaining is completed over the span of eight months,” he added.

But the pattern seems to have been disturbed this year. “Annamayya district in Andhra Pradesh has recorded an increase in employment by 26 per cent for August as compared to previous year. This year the district has recorded a dip of 36.3 per cent in rainfall,” he said. 

Citing another example, he said Satya Sai district saw a drop in the rainfall by 29.4 per cent and recorded a 64 per cent increase in job demand. 

Eastern India has experienced significant agricultural distress, according to Lavanya Tamang, senior researcher at LibTech in Jharkhand, as a result of the disappearance of rural employment sources on which the population had previously relied. 

Read more: Sapling solidarity: Erratic monsoon has led to Haryana, Punjab farmers helping each other; here is how

“MGNREGS acts as a safety net for rural population and we can see it reflecting in the government data. Poor rainfall and delay in sowing of paddy has accelerated the crises,” she said. 

An analysis by Down To Earth showed that states with deficit rainfall this year have seen an increase in employment demand, which is higher in some cases compared to peak COVID-19 pandemic years 2020 and 2021.

In case of Telangana, the demand raised by households during the pandemic year 2020-21 was 376,537 and 130,346 for July and August, which has unprecedentedly scaled to 610,494 and 343,733 this year.

Kerala recorded rainfall deficit of 43 per cent this season and has recorded a demand of 951,095 and 920,145 for July and August in 2023-23 compared to 853,732 and 757,580 for the corresponding months in 2020-2021. 

Jharkhand with a rainfall deficit of 33 per cent, reported 742,007 households demanding jobs in August during 2020-21. However, for the same timeframe in 2023-24, the demand has increased to 855,231. 

The number of households has more than doubled in Maharashtra, where 341,267 and 237,468 households in July and August, respectively, demanded jobs during 2020-21. The numbers now stand at 636,746 and 460,402 respectively — an increase by 86.6 per cent and 93.9 per cent for the corresponding months. 

Read more: Scanty rainfall, low-water levels to affect kuruvai paddy yields this year, warn Tamil Nadu farmers

The demand in the first nine days of September peaked to 172,330, which was 261,322 during the pandemic year 2020-21. Similar is the case of Assam and Gujarat, which has seen more demand from households seeking employment under the MGNREGS this year.

Bihar, Jharkhand, Tripura, Kerala, Odisha, Assam, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are some of the states analysed that show more demand for jobs per household compared to the pre-pandemic era. 

In Uttar Pradesh, the demand for jobs was recorded at 1,897,137 and 1,721,878 for July and August 2019-20. The demand stood at 2,825,123 and 2,047,988 for same period in 2023-24. 

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