MNREGS numbers double in states after migrant labourers return home

The rural development ministry is focused on individual asset creation to ensure social distancing


The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) numbers in Maharashtra have doubled in the past five days and have now crossed the two-lakh mark to come up to 212,800, reported The Indian Express.

These numbers have gone up from about 40,000 on April 12 to over a lakh by April 22 and further doubled in the next five days. Ranga Nayak, State MNREGS Commissioner told IE, “As on April 26, the total attendance in the state on MNREGS works stands at 212,800.”

Districts where the numbers are above 10,000 are Amravati (30,678), Gadchiroli (18,817), Chandrapur (16,262), Beed (17,450), Palghar (14,677), Yavatmal (12, 250) and Bhandara (10,973). “Works, however, are going on in all 34 districts of the state,” he added. Nayak also said, “We are witnessing an increase in attendance of about 30,000 every two-three days. Most works currently under way are in horticulture and Gramin Awas (rural housing) schemes.”

Nayak said that the department had started “a very aggressive campaign to provide works to the needy, affected by the coronavirus pandemic.” Since large gatherings are not allowed, he said they were focusing on individual works. “But about 20% of the attendance can be attributed to community works as well,” he said.

He also said that they had finalized about 35,000 individual works under 216 categories like digging of wells at farms, making cattle sheds, horticulture work and construction of homes under the Awas Yojana. “I have asked the staff to personally approach the beneficiaries, instead of the other way round, to pro-actively speed up works,” he said.

Saying that the state was trying to clear rejected online wage transactions on a “war footing”, he mentioned that the state had issued orders to the publish the list of beneficiaries at government offices such as that of the  collector, zila parishad CEO, sub-divisional officers, tehsildars and gram panchayats.

Other states and MNREGS

Even Rajasthan has seen a sharp jump in MNREGS numbers amid the lockdown. Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, who also holds the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj portfolio, told The Indian Express on Wednesday that in six days, the numbers in the state had gone up from 62,000 on April 17 to 6.08 lakh on April 22.

Pilot said the numbers had seen a huge jump after some restrictions were eased on Monday. He said, “We started planning from April 17, before the modified lockdown started, to ensure that maximum work was generated under the MNREGS. Within days, we have registered an increase of 10 times with the current figure of engaged workers being 6.08 lakh.”

According to government data, the total number of MNREGS labourers rose from 62,000 on April 7 to 2 lakh, 2.5 lakh, 3 lakh, 4.5 lakh and 6.08 lakh over successive days. Speaking about how MNREGS wages was the only way to revive the rural economy, he said, “We have made more than 99 percent of due payments. Our emphasis is to give them maximum individual work, rather than community work, to ensure social distancing.”

He added, “Even if a person is given work for constructing his own home under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana under the MNREGS, that individual will be paid. Even for community works, we have made sure that the labour force is spread out.” He had inspected the MNREGS work sites falling under the jurisdiction of the Chaksu panchayat samiti near Jaipur, and instructed officials to ensure social distancing, medical kits and soaps for labourers.

PC Kishan, Rajasthan’s MNREGS Commissioner said that the demand for the scheme was expected to increase in the next few months. He also said that relatively affluent villagers could be seeking jobs under MNREGS to compensate the loss of income during the lockdown.

The enrollment for manual work under MNREGS, which provides at least 100 days of employment a year to at least one member for every rural household has increased up to threefold in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, reported the Hindustan Times.

A Madhya Pradesh government official said that due to shortage of staff at panchayat offices, they had not been able to enroll all of those who wanted to register under the scheme. In MP, around 375,000 people have been provided work under MNREGS although over 10 million had enrolled. Additional chief secretary (rural development and panchayati raj) Manoj Shrivastava said, “All panchayats have been asked to immediately start MGNREGS works related to water harvesting and agriculture.”

In Bihar and Odisha too, the situation is the same due to the upsurge in migrant workers who have returned home. However, a government official from Odisha said the government had provided immediate financial relief to all migrant workers because it wasn’t possible to enroll all those who were interested under MNREGS immediately.

TS Singhdeo, Chhattisgarh’s Panchayat Raj minister too said that there had been an increase in enrollment under MNREGS in the past 10 days. He said, ““Last year, till April, a similar number of people were enrolled for MGNREGS but this year we expect to provide work to 1.5 million more people under the scheme.”

Focus on individual assets

Government data has shown that just two types of activities – construction (on individual land) and sanitation works, are set aside for 69 percent of the total work under MNREGS for this financial year, HT reported. As per the date on work status for FY20-21, 50 percent of the work under MGNREGS is for construction of individual properties and 19 percent are sanitation-related.

“These activities”, according to a rural ministry official, “perfectly suits us to allot work to large number of workers and meet a demand surge as constructing a house or a toilet requires hardly one to three workers.”

As of April 29, 2020, there are 116,937,214 active MNREGS workers in the country. As on April 23, just 1.58 million people had received work under the scheme.


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