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1.4 lakh families reach MGNREGA’s annual work limit

Focus: GS 2: Schemes related to vulnerable sections, Social Justice

Why in news?

At least 1.4 lakh poor rural households have already completed their quota of 100 days of work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the first three months of the year, and will not be eligible for further benefits under the scheme for the rest of the year

More about news?

Another seven lakh households have completed 80 days and are on the verge of running out of work

Impact of COVID 19 lockdown

Following the lockdown, India witnessed an exodus of jobless migrant workers from cities to rural areas with the workers turning to MGNREGS for earning their livelihood.

Importance of MGNREGS ?

  • The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is meant to enhance the livelihood of the rural populace by guaranteeing at least 100 days of employment within 15 days of raising a demand, to every household wherein the adult members perform unskilled manual labour.
  • The COVID 19-induced lockdown resulted in loss of livelihoods for millions of workers in cities and forced them to return home in rural areas.
  • With an allocation of ₹40,000 crore, as a part of the stimulus package to MGNREGS, the government hopes to increase employment generation in rural areas.
  • The MGNREGA scheme contains a provision for districts affected by drought or other natural disasters to request an expansion of the scheme to allow for 150 days

Demand for MGNREGS works

  • The scheme is often viewed as a means for employment in rural areas during the lean period of agricultural activity.
  • Therefore, demand for work generally peaks in May-June, before it declines during the main kharif cropping season.
  • Currently, the demand is even higher, since it is not just the landless agricultural labourers, but also migrants seeking work.
  • The demand for MGNREGS work jumped by 55% from 21.2 million workers in May 2019 to 32.9 million in May 2020.
  • The 116 districts, with the highest number of returnees, have witnessed 86% increase in demand under MGNREGS in May compared to 2019.

What are the concerns regarding the scheme?

  • Most states have implemented the scheme, till the time the funds were granted to them by Centre. The restricted supply of funds is one of the major pitfalls of the scheme.
  • Often the promise of 100-day employment phases out within 50-55 days, wages remain uncleared even after 15 days, and many get denied work.
  • MGNREGS wage of ₹202 per day is also 30-40% lower than average wage offered to unskilled workers.

How is the govt’s Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan (GKRA) any different?

  • The Centre launched the scheme to boost opportunities for migrants returning to villages.
  • It seeks to provide 125 days of guaranteed employment and focuses on 116 districts across six states, which received the highest number of returnees.
  • Unlike MGNREGS, it is a one-time scheme and is not available pan-India.
  • The move was criticized because MGNERGS has suffered budget cuts and has often lagged.
  • There also seems to be lack of clarity around scheme coverage.
December 2023