Covid-19 impact: Demand for work under MGNREGA saw 21% jump last month

Presently, under MGNREGA, the Law guarantees 100 days of work, though the actual days of work provided is much less
MGNREGA continues to attract rural labourers pushed into distress due to the Covid-19 crisis triggering calls for increasing the mandatory workdays to 200 and raising the minimum wages under the scheme to Rs 600 per day.

Presently, under MGNREGA, the Law guarantees 100 days of work, though the actual days of work provided is much less, while the minimum wages for 2020-21 is around Rs 200 per day.

Data sourced from the MGNREGA website till July 1 shows that in June around 43.7 million households sought work under the scheme that was the highest in last seven years, maintaining a trend seen in May as well.

This was, 21 per cent more than the number of households who demanded work under the scheme in May 2020. In May 2020, 36.1 million households demanded work, which was highest for that month in last seven years. Interestingly, in contrast the provisional data showed that in June 2020, MGNREGA provided 382.9 million persondays of work which was almost 32 per cent less than last month (May 2020).

In May 567.4 million persondays of work was provided under the scheme.

“This needs to be studied closely because if demand for work is rising, work provided should also increase. More so when in May over 500 million persondays of work has been provided,” an expert said.

The surge in work demanded under the scheme comes after more than 20 million migrants returned to villages from the cities to avoid COVID-19 lockdown announced in March.

To provide more work to the migrant laborers, the Central government in May raised the budget under the scheme by Rs 40,000 crore for 2020-21, taking the full year allocation for the scheme to over Rs 100,000 crore for the first time ever.

The additional funds is meant to generate additional 0.2 billion persondays of work in 2020-21 over and above the budgeted 2.8 billion persondays.

The scheme has so far provided an average 23.5 days of work in the first three months of this financial year, while so far the Central government has released almost 39.4 per cent of its enhanced Budget of Rs 101,500 crore for 2020-21.

However, experts of this around Rs 11,000 crore has been spent on clearing previous year dues.

Meanwhile, MGNREGA workers across several parts of the country staged demonstration few days back demanding more days of work and increase in minimum wages.

Rambeti of Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan in Pisawa (Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh) during the demonstration said that her family is about to finish its 100 days of MGNREGA work and wondered what she will do for the remaining months of the year.

“Despite the significant increase in the demand for MGNREGA work, the central government has not increased the annual guarantee of work from 100 days per household,” the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha said in a statement.

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