Demand for MGNREGA work softens
01, Feb 2022
Prelims level : Schemes Mains level : GS-III Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.
Why in News?
- The Department of Economic Affairs recently said in its annual Economic Survey, that the demand for work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme has dropped from the peak of the first lockdown, but is still higher than pre-COVID levels.
About the News:
- However, it cautioned against drawing conclusions about the movement of migrant labour on the basis of MGNREGA employment, noting that the highest demand for work under the scheme was seen in States which are usually the destination of migrant workers, rather than source States.
- Advocates for rural workers argued that the drop in demand is also due to funding constraints, and urged a significant increase in allocations for the scheme in Union budget.
- According to the Survey’s analysis, though demand for work stabilised after the second COVID wave with a maximum of 4.59 crore persons in June 2021, aggregate MGNREGA employment is still higher than pre-pandemic levels of 2019, after accounting for the Seasonality of demand.
What is the Issue Now?
- In 2021-22, additional funding was not available until late in the year when many States had already run out of money, forcing an artificial suppression in demand on the ground.
- For the upcoming 2022-23 financial year, activists have asked for a budget allocation of Rs. 2.6 lakh crore, which would cover the guaranteed 100 days of work for all active job card holders.
- But anything less than Rs. 1.4 lakh crore, which is the amount spent in 2020-21 plus inflation, will be a clear Suppression of Demand by the Government.
Why this Imbalance?
- Intuitively, one may expect that higher MGNREGS demand may be directly related to the movement of migrant labour i.e. source States would be more impacted.
- Nevertheless, State-level analysis shows that for many migrant source States like West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, the MGNREGS employment in most months of 2021 has been lower than the corresponding levels in 2020.
- According to the Survey, demand has been higher for migrant recipient States like Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
- Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan have a record of administrative sensitivity and efficiency with regard to MGNREGA implementation even pre-COVID.
- These States also see high levels of short–term migration within their own borders.
- The scheme was introduced in 2005 as a social measure that guarantees “the right to work”.
- The key tenet of this social measure and labour law is that the local government will have to legally provide at least 100 days of wage employment in rural India to enhance their quality of life.
- Generation of paid rural employment of not less than 100 days for each worker who volunteers for unskilled labour.
- Proactively ensuring social inclusion by strengthening the livelihood base of rural poor.
- Creation of durable assets in rural areas such as wells, ponds, roads and canals.
- Reduce urban migration from rural areas.
- Create rural infrastructure by using untapped rural labour.
What are the Eligibility Criteria for receiving the benefits under MGNREGA scheme?
- Must be Citizen of India to seek MGNREGA benefits.
- Job seeker has completed 18 years of age at the time of application.
- The applicant must be part of a local household (i.e. application must be made with local Gram Panchayat).
- Applicants must volunteer for Unskilled Labour.
Implementation of the scheme:
- Within 15 days of submitting the application or from the day work is demanded, wage employment will be provided to the applicant.
- Right to get unemployment allowance in case employment is not provided within fifteen days of submitting the application or from the date when work is sought.
- Social Audit of MGNREGA works is mandatory, which lends to accountability and transparency.
- The Gram Sabha is the principal forum for wage seekers to raise their voices and make demands.
- It is the Gram Sabha and the Gram Panchayat which approves the shelf of works under MGNREGA and fix their priority.