Rajasthan has created highest number of person days wage employment in the rural sector so far in 2020-21. Rajasthan has created 43 crore person days as of March 15. It is also reported that West Bengal has also performed very well in this respect. It created 40 crore person days. Among other states Madhya Pradesh (38 crore) and Tamil Nadu (31 crore) are also good performer in creating rural jobs under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), popularly known as 100 days work scheme.
It is also known that India as a whole generated 366 crore person days of work under the scheme. The total spending has crossed `1 lakh crore. In the FY 2019-20, the total person day work creation was 265.35 crore. In this FY the person days and government spending has been highest as there was a huge demand for NREGA jobs in the rural sector due to lock down related matters. Lakhs of people returned to rural home lands in the lockdown phase and joined the scheme to earn their livelihood. A total of 7.41 crore households and 10.92 crore persons took up NREGA jobs in the current FY till March 15. In the last FY these figures had been 5.48 crore households and 7.89 crore persons.
The MGNREGA was started in 2006 only in the 200 selected vulnerable districts and later it was in vogue through out the country. In spite of severe crisis in this FY only 55 lakh households completed 100 days in this wage employment scheme. A person gets `202 per day for unskilled labour since April 2020. But for the next FY 2021-22 the budget allocation has been lowered to `73,000 crore from `1.11 lakh crore (revised) this FY. It is also reported that demand for NREGA job is high. This implies employment generation in the country in other productive sector has been still weak.
West Bengal scenario as a special case
Just before the declaration of state assembly election government of West Bengal has declared wage rates hike of unskilled, semi skilled and skilled urban workers. So the wage rate of unskilled has been raised to `202 from `144 per day. The increase of wage rate for semiskilled labour has been from `172 to `303. The new wage rate for skilled labour will be `404 per day. The decision of enhancement of wages has been an appreciable decision of the government. By this announcement a total 56,500 workers will be benefited. Out of this there are 40,500 unskilled workers in the state. The number of semi and skilled workers are 8,000 for each category.
It is known that there had been a hike in MGNREGA workers a few months ago. Actually the present enhancement was due to have a parity of the wages in rural and urban sectors. West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the budget provision for that wage hike had already been made.
The wage rate had been raised for MGNREGA for the rural sector, by 11% in 2020-21. So the wage of unskilled rural workers in this scheme now `202 per day. Earlier it had been `182. The wage rates vary from state to state. Moreover the MGNREGA wage in each state is always much below the minimum wage rates declared by the corresponding state. This is because the minimum wages are revised twice a year by the chief labour commissioner. But in the other case the wage rates are not revised on regular basis.
The rural distress increased from the situation in 2016-17. The immediate cause was inadequate rain fall in 2016-17 and 2017-18 around a considerable part of the country. Some studies observed that rural real wage income actually fell in that period. The job opportunity decreased in that phase.
The impact of demonetisation was also severe in the rural sector. In the pandemic phase government of India’s higher allocation on MGNREGA helped the rural population to a great extent. But even today the demand for MGNREGA jobs is very high. This means still there is less scope of employment in the urban sector or in other infrastructural projects of the country.
Anurag Thakur, Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs recently told in parliament that there would be more allocation in MGNREGA if it was needed. Actually it is not possible to have full economic recovery without enhancement of income of the rural people.