Govt’s rural focus could hit urban economy -Aunindyo Chakravarty
This is a crucial moment for Modinomics. Till now, government schemes have been used to help the poorest of the poor survive, even when they do not have any regular source of income. The middle class has continued to back the PM, hoping his policies will yield dividends. The industrial recession has shaken that belief. It could well be the beginning of their disenchantment with the PM.
IN 2014, journalist Ravish Kumar encountered three ‘Ms’ which were making the voters in India’s villages angry. These were Manmohan, Mahangai and MGNREGA. While the first two were expected, the third was surprising. It turned out that the rural poor were unhappy that they weren’t getting the work they had been promised, and the affluent were miffed that agricultural workers were no longer willing to work for rock-bottom wages. This anger helped Narendra Modi come to power, but the same issues could return to haunt him now.
That’s because MGNREGA has become the go-to scheme for the Modi government to deal with rural distress in the time of Covid-19. Every year, demand for MGNREGA work goes up, right after the summer harvest. Last year, 4.6 crore households sought work under MGNREGA in April and May and 3.8 crore households were provided work. That means 17 per cent of job seekers were sent back empty-handed. This year, the lockdown caused a 39 per cent drop in households asking for work in April, but demand went up by 45 per cent in May. Work provided dropped by 35 per cent in April, but shot up by 55 per cent in May. Overall, job-seeking households increased by 6 per cent in April-May this year, while governments provided 15 per cent more work in the same two months, compared to 2019. In absolute numbers, 56 lakh additional households got work under MGNREGA in the first two months of this fiscal, compared to last year.
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The Tribune, 27 June, 2020, https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/govts-rural-focus-could-hit-urban-economy-104959