At Least 33% Demand Unmet Under MGNREGS from April-June, Shows High Unemployment in Rural Areas
There has been a significant 33 per cent gap between the person-days of work demanded and the person-days of work generated under the Centre’s flagship rural employment guarantee scheme over the past three months, which saw the highest demand for work under the scheme in over five years barring the pandemic. This is, perhaps, the highest that the unmet demand has gone at least in the last few years, shows official data.
According to government data, while a total of 11.84 crore persons-days of employment was demanded during April, May and June, only 7.92 crore person-days of work was provided under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) during this period.
Person-days under MGNREGS is defined as the total number of workdays by a person registered under the scheme. It is a demand-driven scheme that allows 100 days of guaranteed unskilled manual work to adult members of a rural household in a financial year.
As compared to the first three months of the year, which saw a drop in demand under the scheme, the following months of April, May and June saw the highest demand for work not only this year, but at least over the past five years except for the two pandemic years.
In April, the number of person-days of work demanded was 3.17 crore while only 2.07 crore person-days of work was generated leaving a huge gap of 34.70 per cent. While May saw 4.26 crore person-days of employment being demanded, 2.86 crore person-days of work was provided, which means an unmet demand of 32.86 per cent. Similarly, June, which had 4.41 crore person-days of work being demanded, 2.99 crore person-days of work were generated leaving the unmet demand at 32.20 per cent, data on the Ministry of Rural Development’s (MoRD) official website shows.
The MoRD is yet to respond to News18’s query on the high unmet demand.
MGNREGS has a total of 14.38 crore active workers registered with it currently, as per the official website. The scheme acted as a safety net for crores of workers during the pandemic, which saw reverse migration. Such rise in demand, close to pandemic levels, again shows high unemployment in rural areas.
There is a clear upward trend in demand for work starting from April, which is the harvest season, across the country, and peaking in May-June with it being comparatively higher in several states, including Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh (UP).
Activists and academics working closely with the scheme said the sharp rise in demand is contrary to what the Centre had stated earlier this year on drop in demand due to the economy bouncing back to normal post-pandemic.
Nikhil Dey, founder of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, a group of social activists and economists working for the rights of MGNREGS workers, said the gap between the work demanded and work provided during these three months is probably highest-ever.
“Firstly, not meeting the demand is a violation of the law under which the scheme guarantees work to those registering for it, which means an automatic payment of unemployment allowance be provided to those having demanded work. The sharp rise in demand and the gap in providing employment has been a continuous trend for all these three months,” said Dey.
There could be multiple reasons behind the same, he added, but the most important being not enough money being earmarked as there was a steep cut in MGNREGS budget this year. Also, concurrent unemployment across the economy being high is a crucial factor. Since, it is a fall back in crisis scheme, the rise in demand shows that there aren’t enough jobs available in the rural pockets, making people fall back on the scheme to make a living.
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