The number of workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) crossed the 11 crore mark for the first time in the financial year 2020-21, since it was introduced in 2006-07, the Indian Express reported.
The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic last year, followed by an unplanned and sudden lockdown in the country had triggered mass return migrations across the country, with migrants workers forced to undertake perilous and in many cases, fatal journeys over thousands of kilometres to their villages. In such a scenario, the MGNREGS witnessed the sudden spike in workers registered under the rural employment scheme as it emerged as a safety net for the workers.
According to the latest available data on April 1, the number of workers engaged under the scheme increased from 7.88 crore in the last financial year to 11.17 crore in 2020-21, a whopping 41.75% rise. Prior to that, in the period between 2013-14 and 2019-20, the number of workers had remained in the range of 6.21-7.88 crore, as per the Indian Express report.
Further, the number of rural households working under the scheme in 2020-21 also registered a record high, up by 37.59% from 5.48 crore in 2019-20 to 7.54 crore in 2020-21. Earlier in 2010-11, the scheme had registered the previous high of 5.5 crore households.
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The report added that the “numbers for individuals and households are likely to be revised upward once the muster roll data for the last week of March gets updated”.
The employment guarantee scheme launched in 200 rural districts of the country in 2006-07 and extended across the country from 2008-09, aims to provide 100 days of guaranteed wage employment to each rural household whose adult member volunteers to do unskilled manual work,
With returned migrant workers increasing the rural workforce, the number of households that completed 100-day employment in 2020-21 increased by 68.91% from 40.60 lakh in 2019-20 to 68.58 lakh, setting another all time high.
Overall, the number of person days generated in 2020-21 also increased to 385.89 crore, up by 45.43% from 265.35 crore in the previous financial year ,according to the data in the MGNREGS portal. Meanwhile, the average days of employment increased to 51.51 days from 48.4 days in 2019-20.
Among the states registering the highest numbers, West Bengal featured at the top with 1.07 crore individuals availing the scheme until January 10. It is followed by Uttar Pradesh (1.06 crore), Rajasthan (99.25 lakh), Madhya Pradesh (91.62 lakh), Andhra Pradesh (77.57 lakh) and Tamil Nadu (75.37 lakh).
The number of new jobs cards issued also witnessed an unprecedented increase with 1.49 crore households, up from 68.26 lakh households in 2019-20.
According to the portal, the expenditure on MGNREGS in 2020-21 was Rs 110,802.05 crore, increased from Rs 68,265.97 crore in 2019-20, an increase of 61.23%.
Notably, the government had declared additional funding of Rs 40,000 crore for the rural employment scheme which was part of the economic package announced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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