Call to hike NREGA days and wages
A research group on Thursday said the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) had emerged as the main source of income for the rural populace during the pandemic and demanded a hike in the wage rate and the number of permissible days for work per family.
The People’s Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG) told reporters that with the limited employment opportunities in rural India, the only viable livelihood option for the migrants who retuned home during the lockdown and the local people was the MGNREGA, which provides up to 100 days of employment per family per year.
The notified wage rate under the scheme varies from state to state, ranging between Rs 194 and Rs 309 a day. Anuradha Talwar, an activist, demanded that the number of permissible days be doubled to 200 per family per year.
The PAEG made a presentation on the scheme’s performance based on data sourced from the MGNREGA website. According to the presentation, 5.8 crore households have got work under the MGNREGA since April, already exceeding the scheme’s usual annual beneficiaries of 5 crore.
Around 85 lakh job cards have been issued this year, 22 per cent more than the usual annual average.
Rajendran Narayanan, a researcher, said the scheme, which was envisaged to be a demand-driven programme, had become a supply-fuelled scheme, limiting its scope because of disruptions in funding.
The government had allocated Rs 61,500 crore in this year’s budget for the MGNREGA. Another Rs 40,000 crore was announced in May. Rajendran said the programme’s funding had already run into a deficit and urged the government to release the additional amount.
During Thursday’s session, videos of several MGNREGA workers were shared in which they highlighted the importance of the scheme and demanded an increase in wage rates and the number of days for which work is provided.
Economist Jayati Ghosh highlighted the need to spend more funds under the MGNREGA, which would help address the general drop in demand.