The Ministry of Rural Development was served a volley of questions regarding implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) on the second day of the Parliament’s monsoon session on September 16, 2020.
Members of Parliament (MP) Pramila Bisoyi, D. K. Suresh, Saugata Ray, P. C. Gaddigoudar and others asked Minister of Rural Development, Narendra Singh Tomar, a series of questions about release and expenditure of funds for the scheme, details of beneficiaries and possible changes in the scheme in view of loss of livelihood due to the coronavirus pandemic. They were also curious to know whether less employment was provided during lockdown as well as the department’s reaction to the claim that state governments received no funds under MGNREGS.
The MGNREGS is an important government policy that assures 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. Needless to say, the Ministers were keen to see the effects of this scheme during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Regarding the implementation of the scheme in the current financial year (FY), Minister Tomar said that from April to August, the highest funds were allocated to Andhra Pradesh, Rs. 7,01,966.37 lakhs, while the total expenditure was Rs. 6,60,761.9 lakhs. The lowest funds were given to Goa at Rs. 91.34 lakhs although the total expenditure towards the scheme was Rs. 105.14 lakhs. Similarly, the total expenditure for Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Telangana and Andaman and Nicobar Islands exceeded the total Central funds released.
He added that a total of 86,81,928 new job cards were issued this year compared to the 64,95,823 new job cards issued during the FY 2019-20.
Regarding possible changes in the scheme, Tomar said that the Government did not plan to change the guaranteed days of employment from 100 to 200. However, the scheme provides additional 50 days of unskilled wage employment in case of drought or natural calamity as notified in rural areas. Moreover, he said that the Centre has not planned any special allowances to workers nor will the scheme be extended to urban areas.
“As per Section 3(4) of the Mahatma Gandhi NREG Act, 2005, the State Governments may make provisions for providing additional days beyond the period guaranteed under the Act from their own funds,” he said.
When asked about State-wise wage rates under MGNREGS, Tomar said that the highest wage rates were given in Haryana and Sikkim. The lowest wages were given in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. He also said that States and Union Territories can provide wages greater than the Centre’s wage-rate but that the department does not maintain the minimum wage rate of different States.
He said that the Centre has been able to meet the demand for work with adequate funding and active support of the state governments. On September 10, the Ministry released Rs. 60,44,098.23 lakh to the states and Union Territories (UT) for scheme implementation.
While employment provided in April decreased by 48 percent as compared to last year, August recorded a 56 percent increase in employment provision under the scheme.
MGNREGS data during lockdown is as below:
MP Arun Sao questioned the Ministry about pending wage payments. He specifically asked for details on Chhattisgarh’s districts of Bilaspur and Mungeli as well as the date by which the pendency will be addressed.
Tomar replied that the question of late-payments does not arise because MGNREGS is a demand-driven wage employment programme that pays unskilled workers on a regular basis.
“Under DBT [Direct Benefit Transfer] wage payment is made directly to the bank/post office account of the beneficiary by the central Government through the National Electronic Fund Management System after receiving the Fund Transfer Order (FTO) from the State Government through PFMS. The wage payment for the State of Chhattisgarh is being made through DBT, except 4 IAP districts wherein cash payment provision is made as an exception till October 2020,” said Tomar.
He clarified that as of September 11, there are no pending wages of Chhattisgarh whose districts receive payments either through DBTs or cash as per need. Similarly, he listed States and Union Territories that had pending Fund Transfer Orders (FTOs) such as Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Puducherry. West Bengal had the highest pending FTO of Rs. 39,757.05115 lakhs while Puducherry had the lowest pending FTO of Rs. 74.12165 lakhs.
On pending material and administration funds, the Minister said that the Government of India releases such funds to the concerned State Government and thus does not directly release material funds to districts.
Member of Parliament Dibyendu Adhikari asked the Ministry of Rural Development to confirm whether as many as 145 million households (over 14 crores households) had applied for work under the MGNREGS between April to July, signifying a 60 percent increase from last year. He asked for the number of people employed until August 31 as well as the Centre’s proposal to provide employment to all applicants.
In reply, Tomar stated that over 12 crore households demanded work under the scheme between the months of April and July in current FY 2020-21. Last year nearly 9 crore households – 8,99,42,082 households – applied under this scheme, indicating a 38.73 increase in the current financial year. The Minister added that over 8 crore beneficiaries – 8,13,67,966 beneficiaries – received employment under this scheme until August 31.
Regarding government proposals, Tomar said that beneficiaries under the scheme are entitled for unemployment allowance from the concerned state, if they are not employed within 15 days of receipt of their application or from the date on which employment has been sought in case of an advance application. He also said that states and UTs prepare a revised shelf of works before the start of a new financial year depending upon the demand of jobs in the field.
Another member of Parliament Ravi Kishan asked the Government whether people were receiving 100 days of assured employment in the continuing demand for MGNREGS.
“The demand for work is influenced by various factors such as rain-fall, availability of alternative and remunerative employment opportunities outside Mahatma Gandhi NREGS etc. During the current FY 2020-21 as on 12.09.2020, a total of 7.93 lakh households is [sic] various States/UTs … completed 100 days of employment under the Mahatma Gandhi NREGS as per their demand,” said Tomar.
In Andhra Pradesh as many as 2.62 lakhs households had completed 100 days of employment while no family completed employment under this scheme in Goa, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep Islands.
MoP S. Venkatesan asked the Rural Development Minister whether the government had any proposal to increase the number of eligible work days under MGNREGA as well as details about the average mandays at the national level and State-wise employed under the policy between April and August this year.
To the first question, Tomar replied with a curt “No sir.” At the national level the scheme provided 12 mandays in April, 17 mandays in May, 6 mandays in June, 14 man-days in July and 12 mandays in August this year.
The state-wise number of mandays can be seen below: