There has been an exponential increase in the number of person-days generated under MNREGA in the first ten months of 2020-21 compared to the same period in 2019-20. However, data indicates that this increase in person-days of employment has not resulted in the increase in average days of employment per household which still remains below 50.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005, which is popularly known as MNREGA, is a social security scheme implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development together with state governments. The scheme guarantees 100 days of wage employment in a financial year, to adult members in a rural household who are willing to do unskilled manual work at a fixed minimum wage.
At least 100 days of employment must be provided to unemployed volunteering adults in rural households
Section 3 of the Act states that ‘the State Government shall provide to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work not less than one hundred days of such work in a financial year’. What this means is that every state government must provide work of at least 100 days during a financial year, to every household where the adults register themselves to avail of employment under the scheme. An additional fifty days of wage employment is also provided over and above the 100 days in notified drought-affected areas or areas affected by natural calamities on the recommendations of the Ministry of Agriculture. Every Scheduled Tribe household in a forest area who have no other private property except for the land rights provided under the FRA Act, 2006 are also entitled to the same.
Number of person-days of work has increased exponentially in 2020-21
In an earlier story by Factly, it was observed that there is an exponential growth in the person-days generated under MNREGA in 2020-21. It was observed that the person-days generated in the first 10 months of 2020-21 was about 46% more than the person-days generated during the same period in 2019-20.
Average days of employment provided per household is less than 50
While the mandate is to provide at least 100 days of wage employment per household whose members are willing, the data available on the official portal reveals that the average days of employment provided per household is less than 50.
As per the data on the MNREGA portal, each household has received work for only less than half the stipulated number of 100 days on average in 2020-21 and even in earlier years. The average days of employment per household have been calculated by dividing the total number of person-days generated in a year by the number of households that have been provided employment in that year. For instance, in 2019-20, over 265.3 crore person-days were generated and over 5.48 crore households were employed resulting in an average of a little more than 48 days of employment per household.
The average days of employment provided per household for the financial year 2016-17 was 46 days and for 2017-18 were 45.7 days. Between 2016-17 and 2019-20, the average days of employment were the highest in 2018-19, when it just crossed 50. However, in 2019-20, this dropped to 48.4 days. In the current financial year 2020-21, with less than 2 months left in the year, the average number of days of employment per household is close to 46. This implies that even if all households are given employment for the remaining days (which is unrealistic) in the ongoing financial year, still the legal mandate of 100 days cannot be achieved.
Mizoram reported the highest number of days of employment per household in 2020-21
Going by the same formula used previously, data for the ten-odd months of 2020-21 (until 08 February 2021) indicates that Mizoram reported the highest number of days of employment per household with an average of 89 days followed by Tripura with 64.5, Ladakh with 61.6, and Meghalaya with 58.5. Among the larger states, Madhya Pradesh reported the greatest average number of days per household with 57.6 days. Other larger states with an average of more than 50 days per household include Rajasthan, Kerala, Odisha, and Himachal Pradesh. West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh have also reported a greater number than the national average of 46 days of employment per household in 2020-21.
On the lower side, the states of Punjab, Telangana, Haryana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh, have so far provided less than 40 days of employment per household. The states of Punjab and Haryana have reported the highest average number of days of employment per household in 2020-21 during the five-year period of 2016-17 & 2020-21.
Substantial increase in person-days of employment generated in certain states
In the previous story, it was observed that the state of West Bengal had generated 39.97 crore person-days of work between April to January of 2020-21, the highest in India during that period. West Bengal has also reported more than double the number of person-days compared to the same period in 2019-20. Other states which have reported a significant increase in MNREGA employment in 2020-21 as compared to 2019-20 are Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, and Jharkhand. This can be attributed to the reverse migration that took place because of the nationwide lockdown. Also, a large section of people in these states lost their jobs/work and turned to MNREGA for employment.
With respect to the number of households registered under the scheme, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Haryana, and Manipur were among those that had reported a greater increase in the number of households receiving employment under MGNREGA during the first ten months in 2020-21 compared to the same period in 2019-20.
Number of days of employment per household has not increased with the demand for work
Despite the increased demand for employment in 2020-21, the number of days of employment per household has not gone up. As of February 2021, in the six states of Bihar, MP, Odisha, UP, Jharkhand, and West Bengal- which reported a substantial increase in the demand for employment under MNREGA in terms of person-days generated in 2020-21, the average number of days of employment per household continues to remain low, far from the mandatory 100 days. Both MP and Odisha have reported the greatest average number of days of employment per household in 2020-21 during the given five-year period starting 2016-17.
On the other hand, in the states of Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Chhattisgarh that reported only a marginal increase in person-days in the ongoing financial year, the average number of days of employment per household has also remained low with no improvement.
Increase in person-days of employment is due to increase in households registered for MNREGA
Though there are two odd months left in the financial year, there may not be a significant rise in the number of days of employment generated per household if the trend of the last 10 odd months continues. What is evident from the state-wise data is that more households have registered under the scheme in 2020-21 as a result of which person-days of employment has increased. However, the increase in person-days has not resulted in an increase in the average number of days of work per household.
Government should focus on providing the mandatory 100 days of work
As per the Union government’s budget for 2021-22, the allocation for MNREGA is lower than that of the revised estimates for 2020-21 which implies that the government is anticipating a return to normalcy and that the dependence on MNREGA might come down. Even if the overall demand for MNREGA falls, the governments should ensure that the increased person-days should result in a greater number of days of employment per household. What is clear is that increasing the number of days of employment that can be provided to 150 does not benefit many since the stipulated 100 days is also not being provided to most households.
Featured Image: MNREGA employment