Uttar Pradesh has witnessed the sharpest year-on-year surge in job demand at 300 per cent in MGNREGA schemes. UP has employed the highest number of people at over 57 lakh as on June 15 in absolute terms across India. Nearly 80 per cent of all migrants have moved back to their native state Uttar Pradesh. Over 30 lakh migrant workers returned to Uttar Pradesh in May.
The shelf of work, meaning nature and quantum of work under MGNREGA schemes, was planned last fiscal and did not account for the unusual demand caused by the nation-wide lockdown and the reverse migration of millions of migrants.
MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) is a centrally sponsored, demand-driven scheme. The fund allocation for the scheme was increased by nearly two-thirds to Rs1 lakh crore for the fiscal 2020-21 by the Union Rural Development Ministry as a response to the need for a rural stimulus and job creation. States have seen better fund flows from the Centre, faster clearance of wage payments in the last three months, and experts fear the funds are going to run out very quickly.
Official sources said if the complete unlocking and return to normalcy takes longer, then the government would have to make supplementary provisions in the budget.
The funds for MGNREGA available with UP are Rs 476 crore.
As per the website of Union Rural Development Ministry, the jobs under the rural job guarantee scheme have almost doubled as migrant workers leave cities and return home to an uncertain future. There has been a marked increase in demand for work under MGNREGS across states, from one crore persons per day average in pre-Covid times to almost 2.1 crore in the month of May across the country. The average demand for MGNREGS in June so far has been consistently above 3.5 crore persons per day, almost double of last year’s 1.8 crore.
States have gone on an overdrive to make new job cards for families which had been left out earlier. This is reflective of the increase in number of total job cards from 13.6 crore till the beginning of the year to 14.05 crore as on June 15 in major states. The active job cards have also seen a surge from 7.6 crore at the start of 2020-21 to 8.04 crore as on June 15, indicating that more families are seeking and working under MGNREGS.
As a deluge of migrants reached their villages and lockdown rules were eased, a broader push by the Central government saw MGNREGS witness the highest jump in demand and work given under the scheme. Large states like Rajasthan have seen the highest increase in work generated and states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Chhattisgarh with a large labour force are also seeing a significant rise in work. According to the official data, the large states are unable to create enough jobs under MGNREGS to keep up with the demand.
“MGNREGS is employment guarantee scheme, but not everyone who demands a job is getting registered and even of those registered, not all are guaranteed employment. As of June 15, on an average, 19 person days of work has been generated under MGNREGS across the states with UP generating 16.68 days of jobs,” said an official of the Rural Development department.