Can MGNREGA be a tool for post-COVID-19 rural recovery -Shilp Verma

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published Published on Jul 9, 2020   modified Modified on Jul 10, 2020

-Down to Earth

Agriculture is the least-affected sector of the economy. It is poised to gain and lead economy’s revival process

‘Year of COVID-19’— this is how 2020 is probably going to be remembered. It has been more than six months that the novel coronavirus disease has been dominating public discourse, news cycles, internet searches and even geopolitics.

As on July 8, 2020, India had more than 0.7 million cases. It was among the top three world economies worst hit by the pandemic.

The Union government in March announced a country-wide lockdown to contain the spread in March. The wisdom and effectiveness of the lockdown will be long debated and discussed, but there’s little doubt that the economy will need to be pulled back on track through a combination of public and private initiatives.

The Union government announced Rs 20 lakh-crore recovery package to revive the economy; one small component of this was allocated for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) as well.

Data on reported cases has shown that so far, COVID-19 is largely an urban phenomenon. The districts that are home to India’s largest 25 cities account for less than 10 per cent of the country’s population, but more than 60 per cent of the total confirmed cases.

This means that other than temporary disruptions in market access and some resultant price volatility; India’s agrarian economy has been somewhat COVID-19-immune.

In any case, agriculture is arguably the least-affected sector of the economy; seen as the only ‘bright spot’ in an otherwise dismal economy, poised to gain and likely to lead the economy’s revival process.

The bumper Rabi harvest is a good sign, but the one aspect of agriculture that might be adversely affected is the farm-labour economy.

There has been large-scale reverse migration of workers from urban and rural work destinations. This will, at least in the short run, add workers to the rural workforce.

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Down to Earth, 9 July, 2020,

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