Resource centre on India's rural distress

Additional allocation for MGNREGA must be supplemented with steps to make it more effective -Rakshita Swamy

-The Indian Express

With nearly eight crore migrant workers returning to their villages, and with an additional allocation for the year, this could be a moment for the true revival of MGNREGA. A revival led by workers themselves.

The lockdown has resulted in a massive loss of livelihoods, and the 400-million strong unorganised workforce is the worst hit. A significant part of this workforce has migrated to cities from rural areas. With the allocation of an additional Rs 40,000 crore as part of the stimulus package, the Union government has finally acknowledged the importance of MGNREGA. The most important part of MGNREGA’s design is its legally-backed guarantee for any rural adult to get work within 15 days of demanding it. This demand-based trigger enables the self-selection of workers and gives them an assurance of at least 100 days of wage employment.

The additional financial support for MGNREGA needs to be fully appreciated. But, it is also important to put it in context. Since 2012, an average of 18 per cent of the annual budgetary allocation for MGNREGA has been spent on clearing pending liabilities from the previous years. Even this financial year began with pending wage and material liabilities of Rs 16,045 crore. An allocation of Rs 1 lakh crore for FY 2020-21 would mean that approximately Rs 84,000 crore is available for employment generation this year. This will still be the highest allocation for MGNREGA in any year since the passage of the law. However, the allocation, which amounts to 0.47 per cent of the GDP continues to be much lower than the World Bank recommendations of 1.7 per cent for the optimal functioning of the programme.

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