MGNREGS demand in April nearly doubled over last year

The April 2021 figure is provisional and likely to be revised upwards. This is because muster rolls data of the last week of the month gets updated over the first fortnight of the following month.

Amid the surge in Covid-19 cases, about 2 crore families across the country availed of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in April—80 per cent higher than the corresponding figure last year, according to the data on the scheme’s website.

The April 2021 figure is provisional and likely to be revised upwards. This is because muster rolls data of the last week of the month gets updated over the first fortnight of the following month.

The data, reported by states till May 9, shows that 1.99 crore families—availed of the NREGS in April 2021, compared to 1.10 crore families in April 2020. The April 2021 figure, however, is also higher than the pre-Covid-19 number of April 2019, when 1.70 crore households used the scheme.

Last year, work under NREGS was exempted from the nationwide lockdown.

The states which have seen the sharpest jump in the number of households availing the NREGS are Assam (3,100%), Tamil Nadu (901%), Punjab (737%), Gujarat (439%) and Jharkhand (367%).

Besides, 14 states—Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Odisha, Maharashtra, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tripura, Mizoram and Jammu and Kashmir—have seen an increase in the range of 3-349 per cent.

The data also shows that 13 states and Union Territories have reported fewer households availing of NREGS. These states are Telangana, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Meghalaya, UP, Andaman and Nicobar, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Goa, West Bengal, Nagaland and Puducherry.

The reasons for lower NREGS demand in states like Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal could be the recently-concluded elections. The figures for these states, however, could be revised upwards once the muster roll data for the month gets updated in the first fortnight of May.

In April this year, over 30 crore person-days of work have been generated across the country, which is 113 per cent higher than the 14.16 crore figure for the corresponding month of last year. The person-days figure for April is also expected to be revised upward.

Under NREGS, every rural household, whose adult member volunteers to do unskilled manual work, is entitled to get at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year. NREGS has emerged as a safety net in during the pandemic. A large number of migrant workers, who returned to their villages from big cities following the nation-wide lockdown last year, had joined the work at NREGS sites, pushing the demand for unskilled work under the rural job guarantee scheme to an all-time high.

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