Demand for MGNREGA work spikes




  • The demand for MGNREGA work so far in the month of April has increased to 2.57 crore households, 92% higher than a year ago, and a record high for April since 2013.
  •  This indicates the extent of reverse migration from the lockdown States to their native States.

Budget allocations

  • The government had allocated ₹73,000 crore in this year’s Budget for the MGNREGA, nearly 34.5% lower than last year’s revised estimates of ₹1.11 lakh crore, on the assumption that the economic recovery would alleviate the need for such spending.
  • The original budgeted spending for the scheme for 2020-21 was around ₹60,000 crore but was enhanced over the year as the national lockdown and large-scale reverse migration from urban employment centres to the hinterland triggered greater demand under the scheme.
  •  The government would allocate more funds for the rural jobs scheme for 2021-22 if needed, over and above the ₹73,000 crore outlay proposed in the Budget.


What is MGNREGA,?

  • MGNREGA, which is the largest Work Guarantee Programme in the World, was enacted in 2005 with the primary objective of guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment per year to rural households. 
  • It aims at addressing causes of chronic Poverty through the ‘works’ (projects) that are undertaken, and thus ensuring sustainable development. 
  • There is an emphasis on strengthening the process of Decentralisation through giving a significant role to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in planning and implementing these works.
  • At present it covers all Districts of the country with the exception of those that have a 100% urban population.  The Act provides a list of works that can be undertaken to generate employment related to water conservation, drought proofing, land development, and flood control and protection works.  

Key Provisions: 

  • Employment must be provided with 15 days of being demanded failing which an ‘Unemployment Allowance’ must be given.
  • Gram Sabhas must recommend the works that are to be undertaken and at least 50% of the works must be executed by them.  PRIs are primarily responsible for planning, implementation and monitoring of the works that are undertaken.
  • All work sites should have facilities such as crèches, drinking water and first aid.
  • There are provisions for proactive disclosure through wall writings, citizen information boards, Management Information Systems and Social audits.  Social audits are conducted by Gram Sabhas to enable the community to monitor the implementation of the Scheme.
  • Funding is shared between the Centre and the States.  There are three major items of expenditure – wages (for unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled labour), material and administrative costs. 
  •  The Central Government bears 100% of the cost of unskilled labour, 75% of the cost of semi-skilled and skilled labour, 75% of the cost of materials.

Way forward 

Solutions to reverse migration

  • The answer to the question of gainful local employment does not lie in market-based opportunities alone, as there are massive regional inequalities where regions with higher population growth have the dubious distinction of being underdeveloped, too.
  •  Registering returnees and their skill levels and collating job opportunities in projects funded by the central or state governments are some of the measures announced.

Although the process is still under way, it is becoming clear that an exercise of this nature calls for strong ground-level institutions with serious capacities of planning and implementation.

● The situation brings back old-fashioned decentralisation, centre-stage.

● It is evident that building adequate capacities at the grass-roots levels for identifying employment opportunities early and anticipating skill requirements at the level of districts is critical for an outcome-focused skills training system.



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