Considering the lockdown amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and its side effects on the overall employment scenario in the country, the Government of India gave explicit instructions to state governments to give maximum employment to villagers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). As a result, almost every state government scaled up the works under MGNREGA and millions of villagers, including migrant labourers who recently returned to their native places, are getting employment and an increased wage under this rural job scheme. In terms of labour engagement and planning under MGNREGA, Rajasthan has shown impressive performance. It gave employment to 50.20 lakh people under MGNREGA on June 8 this week, which means if a family in Rajasthan has 5 members, the job guarantee scheme is providing livelihood to 2.5 crore people in the state. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh also seem to be performing well.
Undoubtedly, MGNREGA was initiated with the good intention of keeping migration in check and making rural economy strong. It achieved its goal to an extent. It saved the rural Indian economy from getting collapsed during 2008-09 global economic slowdown.
However, MGNREGA witnessed some political disputes over its utility but it has come a long way since its launch and it has successfully proved its worth as a life saver for millions of rural people.
Given below are some facts and figures on the basis of which it can be said with confidence that the overall scheme of MGNREGA has changed for better over the years.
Increased Central Fund
According to an official data of the Government of India, MGNREGA received Rs. 1,91,864 crore as central fund between financial year (FY) 2008-09 and 2013-14, whereas it received an increased amount of Rs. 3,06,953 crore as central fund between FY 2014-15 and FY 2019-20.
More Women Participation
There was only 48% women participation in MGNREGA works during FY 2013-14, but in FY 2019-20 the participation of women work force increased to 55%.
E-Payment of Wages
Earlier, less than 50% work force of MGNREGA received their payments through eFMS (e-payments). But, in FY 2019-20, more than 99% of MGNREGA workers got their wages through e-payments. More than 24 states have implemented NeFMS, which is the system of transferring wages directly into the bank account of MGNREGA workers.
Reduced Number of Registers
Earlier, Gram Panchayats were maintaining on an average 22-29 registers pertaining to MGNREGA. But it is reduced to merely 7 simplified registers now. More than 2.69 lakh Gram Panchayats have already adopted them so far and it has made the maintenance of records easier for lower level bureaucracy.
Enhanced Focus on Agriculture
Before FY 2013-14, there were around 48% focus on agriculture and allied activities under MGNREGA works. But it significantly increased to more than 66% in FY 2019-20 which gave a big boost to the agriculture sector.
Impressive Rate of Completion of Works
The rate of completion of works under MGNREGA has also increased impressively in the last few years. On an average 25 to 30 lakh works were completed every year until FY 2013-14. But, in FY 2019-20, 72.06 lakh works were completed and more than 10 lakh works has already been completed in the current FY 2020-21 so far. Between 2005-06 and 2013-2014, 1.27 crore assets were created, whereas 3.63 crore assets has been created in the relatively short span of 2014-15 to 2019-20.
Improved Process of Job Card Verification
The process of job card verification and updation was sporadic and irregular. But, in recent years, it has improved and 95% of active job cards has been updated and verified in campaign mode. Around 7.62 lakh job cards has been deleted and 34.86 lakh new job cards has been issued.
The above-mentioned facts and figures are telling the story of MGNREGA holistically. The Union government is well aware of the importance of MGNREGA at a crucial juncture when 40 crore strong unorganized workforce is the worst hit because of lockdown arising out of Covid-19 crisis. It had allocated Rs. 61,500 crores for MGNREGA in the Union Budget 2020. Recently, it allocated an additional package of Rs. 40,000 crores for MGNREGA. It should be fully appreciated and we should be optimistic that it will play a major role in the livelihoods of millions of Indians and it will also benefit our economy eventually.
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