The rural job scheme can not only provide a great opportunity to jobless workers but also push the water conservation drive
The people of India not only need to fight to save their lives from the deadly coronavirus but also their livelihoods, feels Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The worst-hit amid the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are no doubt the poor, especially the ones living in rural India.
On the one hand, the poor face the burden of health due to shortage of infrastructural facilities and on the other hand, they will face the heat of poverty due to loss of livelihood.
It is important to note whether the rural job scheme under the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has come as a rescue or not.
It is also important to see whether MGNREGA is helping the country to tide over the water crisis through water conservation when COVID-19 talks about washing hands frequently.
Lets first look at what the government has announced for helping poor labourers. The Government of India planned to release all the pending wages under the rural job scheme of MGNREGA by April 10, 2020 according to media reports.
The money is supposed to reach the accounts of the beneficiaries directly, say these reports. However, the MIS states that there are pending wages for the unskilled labour of 10 crore, while Rs 694 crore has been spent on unskilled labour wage till April 13, 2020. The MIS also states that the amount disbursed directly to the skilled and semi-skilled accounts in the present financial year is Rs 627 crore.
The rural job scheme involves skilled / semi-skilled and unskilled labourers.
What about the main areas of work under MGNREGA in FY 2020-2021?
The top three components where the maximum work has been focussed are: works on individual lands, water conservation and water harvesting and drought proofing. The work demand created till April 13, 2020, is just 15 per cent of what was generated in the month of April in FY 2019-20.
This shows that group labour work, which is the main focus of the rural job scheme, has been demotivated to stop the spread of virus. Thus, in this financial year, the top priority has been given to work on individual land.
The major work of the water conservation drive under the new Jal Shakti Ministry is routed through MGNREGA; but the scare of the virus has reduced such work and the money spent this financial year on water-related work is just 21.6 per cent of all the work.
The low expenditure on water-related work under MGNREGA in FY 2020-2021
It is time India sees how the work demand can be aggravated and also focus on water-related schemes that are the need of the hour. India hit the headlines when thousands of labourers started returning back to their villages after the cities were brought under the lockdown to stop the spread of the virus.
The rural job scheme can provide a great opportunity to these labourers. The government just needs to see how this opportunity can also be used to push the water conservation drive.
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