MNREGA throughout COVID-19 pandemic: More households obtained work in 2020, however fund crunch a significant concern, finds examine

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The significance of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme as a security web for the agricultural poor elevated manifold throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, a brand new report has discovered

The significance of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme as a security web for the agricultural poor elevated manifold throughout the COVID-19 lockdown. A report on the scheme ready by a bunch of academicians and activists confirmed that whereas extra individuals availed of it in 2020 in comparison with final 12 months, the shortfall in funds allotted for the scheme is a significant fear.

The report, a ‘NREGA National Tracker’, was revealed by People’s Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG) earlier this month. The report reveals that over 1 crore extra households took up work underneath the MNREGA in 2020 in comparison with final 12 months, indicating that the scheme turned far more important throughout a interval of unprecedented financial hardship. However, the typical employment obtained per family this 12 months (41 days) was lesser as in comparison with final 12 months (48 days).

PAEG’s tracker primarily based its findings on knowledge gleaned from the MNREGA’s Management Information System (MIS), which is run by the Central authorities

From April 2020 to November 2020, there was a 43 % enhance within the variety of individual days generated, as in comparison with the identical interval final 12 months. According to PAEG, which means the federal government ought to have made provisions for at the least 379 crore individual days within the labour Budget this 12 months. However, as of now, funds have been allotted just for 324 crore individual days, the report notes.

Speaking to Firstpost, MS Raunaq, one of many authors of the report, stated, “We arrived at the figure of 379 crore person days by assuming that the trend of a 43 percent increase in person day will continue for the rest of the financial year. We also took into account the fact that demand for MNREGA work varies from month to month. In general, the demand for MNREGA work is expected to increase from January to March, as this is the lean season in agriculture.”

Elaborating on the seasonal nature of labor underneath the scheme, Pushpendra Kumar Singh, Chairperson of the Centre for Development Practice and Research, Tata Institute of Social Sciences stated, “After the harvesting of wheat in March and April and before the sowing of paddy in June and July, there is very little work in agriculture in several parts of the country. Thus, more people take up MNREGA work in the summers. Similarly, during other lean seasons in agriculture as well, more people take up labour under this scheme. ”

The report by PAEG additionally cites a number of different statistics to indicate that the MNREGA scheme is dealing with important funds constraints. To illustrate, 45.6 lakh households that utilized for a job card weren’t issued one this 12 months. Further, official knowledge reveals that on the finish of November 2020, solely 19.8 % of the allotted funds for MNREGA remained to generate employment for the upcoming 4 months of the monetary 12 months — from December 2020 to March 2021.

However, talking to Firstpost, NN Sinha, Secretary, Union Ministry of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, stated, “Demand for MNREGA has indeed risen this year — the data speaks for itself. But allocation of work has kept up with it. This is because the scheme is essentially a demand-driven programme. As far as allocation of funds is concerned, the Union government has allocated Rs 1,01,500 crore to MNREGA for the financial year 2020-2021, which is an unprecedented amount. Before this, the maximum amount that was allocated for the scheme was about Rs 73,000.”

There are additionally important state-wise variations in the way in which MNREGA has carried out via the previous 12 months. For instance, in Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, the share of households whose demand for MNREGA work was unmet was unmet throughout the 12 months was 25 % and 23 % respectively. On the opposite hand, West Bengal and Rajasthan did higher on this entrance, and the corresponding figures for the 2 states had been 7 % and eight % respectively. Nationwide, 13 % of households discovered their demand for work unmet sooner or later throughout the 12 months.

However, knowledge reveals solely a part of the image. Vivek Anand, a TISS researcher who’s a part of a survey crew at present analyzing the efficiency of MNREGA in Bihar, would attest to this. Vivek famous, “From what I have seen, there are several widespread malpractices in the implementation of the scheme. To illustrate, work done largely through mechanised means is sometimes shown as having been done through MNREGA. Often, the authorities are only interested in seeing the work that is being done, while official records such as the number of job cards issued and number of person days generated can be ‘managed.’ This system goes on as long as the ‘workers’ on the official records tell inspection teams that they indeed got work under the scheme. Even if someone complains, the local influential people ensure that things do not go out of hand.”

He additional stated, “On the whole, the status of implementation of the scheme differs from district to district, and even block to block. If the local administration is active, then more work gets done. However, in general, I have found that people who have good local connections got more work under MNREGA. As far as I have seen, the number of migrant returnees in Bihar who got work under the scheme were less.”

This signifies that the implementation of the MNREGA was insufficient in Bihar that arguably wanted it probably the most. Bihar was the state the place the biggest variety of migrant staff returned within the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdown, as famous by this text in The Indian Express.

Such inadequacies however, the info does testify to the much-increased significance of MNREGA as a security web throughout the hardships of the coronavirus lockdown. MS Raunaq notes, “In May, June and July, there was a massive increase in demand for work. From August to October, demand fell. As compared to August to October last year, the demand is still high. The increase in the number of person days generated till November this year (252.5 crore as against 176.7 crore till November last year) shows that the scheme has been a massive help for rural areas.

Speaking on the expected magnitude of work under MNREGA in the coming months, NN Sinha said, “One cannot make a blanket statement that work under the scheme will increase from January to March. This assumption may be true by and large for north India, but not the whole country. In regions such as Telangana, there is a lot of agriculture-related work due to the retreating monsoon. Thus, less work is taken up under MNREGA.”

Sinha further noted, “This year, the government contributed a lot of funds towards MNREGA. However, it would not be a good strategy to depend entirely on the scheme to deal with the shock of the pandemic. State governments must work towards ensuring that various sectors of the economy pick up pace. The need of the hour is sustained and sustainable employment.”

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