Over 152 crore person (work) days have been created under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) so far during the current fiscal, and this is more than half the ambitious revised target of 300 crore days set for the whole of the year, according to the official dashboard.
In the April-July period of last fiscal, the person days created under the scheme were just 116 crore.
While this definitely signifies the rigour with which the Centre, the principal sponsor, and the states, the key implementers, are using the most handy tool at their disposal to avert/alleviate rural distress during the pandemic period, a considerable part of the work demand is still unmet (see graph). The demand for work under MGNREGS saw a sharp spike since early May and peaked in June; the supply responded to the higher demand in an expeditious manner in May but has since shown moderation, apparently adjusting to the budget.
An ideal scenario would be of average days of employment per household in a year touching 100. In the past years, the days hovered around half that level. So far during the current year the average person days/ household has been around 30, which means if the
May-June pace is maintained, the 100-day threshold would be touched. But that is not a realistic assumption as the availability of work under the scheme will likely gradually reduce, in keeping the Budget provided.
In fact, the July data already shows slowing signs from the June peak caused by the return of tens of thousands of migrant workers from cities to rural areas.
Significantly, the average wage rate under the scheme also has risen recently — Rs 196.85 for a day’s work in the current fiscal against Rs 182 last fiscal. This also proves the scheme’s efficacy in reducing the pains of rural poor during the current crisis, when they have few other jobs to find.
The Centre has already released Rs 48,461 crore under the scheme in the current fiscal against Rs 71,058 crore spent during the whole of 2019-20. The government has also increased the 2020-21 budget outlay for MGNREGS to Rs 1,01,500 crore from the initial outlay of Rs 61,500 crore. The person days target for the current fiscal has been revised from 280.76 crore to 300 crore.