Least number of people got 100 days of work under MGNREGA in 5 years
The number of people getting 100 days of work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the current financial year through October has been the lowest since 2018. Only 0.77 million people received work for 100 days as mandated by the employment scheme, government data showed.
Some 5.92 million people got 100 days of work under the scheme in 2021-22 and 7.19 million got the same in 2020-21, according to data from Management Information System (MIS).
In 2019-20, the number of people who got 100 days of work was 4.05 million. It was 5.26 million in 2018-19, according to the data.
The primary objective of the MGNREGA is to guarantee 100 days of work during the financial year in every rural household and the low figure defeats the purpose, said Apurva Gupta, a researcher at NREGA Sangharsh Morcha.
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The Morcha is a national platform for workers, trade unions, organisations and individuals engaged in public action on MGNREGA.
The central government has delayed wages under the Act for the second consecutive year. The payments to be paid to the workers remain at Rs 5,879 crore. This may pile up as the programme is due for another five months in accordance with the financial year. For 2021-22, the dues were at Rs 8,794 crore, according to MIS data.
There has been significant demand for household work under MGNREGA despite delayed payments.
The number of jobs demanded until October is 591 million and the number of jobs provided is 513 million. There is a gap of 13 per cent between the demand and supply.
The demand for household work was recorded at 805 million in 2021-22. The figure was at 855 million in 2020-21.
Gupta attributed low job demand, increasing pending dues and low completion of 100 days to the low budget allocation. The Government of India allocated Rs 78,000 crore for 2022-23 — 25 per cent less than the previous year’s budget of Rs 98,000 crore.
“We have to note that these figures are far more conservative than the actual numbers. In reality, the numbers may be much higher as many people have not been able to register for the jobs,” Gupta told DTE.
Workers in West Bengal, who contributed the highest to MGNREGA, are especially affected. Over 13.2 million people have not been paid since December 2021, she added.
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Delayed payments and deprivation of jobs have further demoralised the rural population, who are in dire need of employment, Gupta said.
“The Union government not paying the workers is like holding them hostage for their political grudges between the centre and state governments,” said Rajendran Narayan, a faculty member at Azim Premji University, Bengaluru.
He was involved in a study which explored the role of MGNREGA during the COVID-19 pandemic, released earlier this year.
“We conducted studies across Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka and found that the budget demand for the works was three times higher than the allocated funds during the pandemic year,” he told DTE.
The budget allocation should be multifold, considering the current situation with a 25 per cent budget cut and ever-increasing demand, the expert said.
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