As drought conditions worsen in across large parts of rural Maharashtra and sowing for rabi crops adversely affected, the state is expected to give a fresh push to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), a key policy measure to tackle drought-driven agrarian distress.
But while a focused jobs guarantee thrust could help mitigate financial distress for tens of thousands of rural families, Maharashtra’s performance on MGNREGA until now this year has been lacklustre on several counts.
Even as a group of politicians and activists wrote to the Union government seeking strengthening of the NREGA scheme to alleviate the current agrarian crisis, the numbers show that Maharashtra, in comparison to other states, is not even middling in the number of households benefited, number of person days of work generated or percentage of currently active workers among job-card holders.
Of the 4.54 crore households benefited in 2018-19, only a little over 15 lakh are from Maharashtra. While Uttar Pradesh accounts for over 43 lakh families, Andhra Pradesh accounts for over 40 lakh, West Bengal for 41 lakh and Tamil Nadu accounts for more than 50 lakh of these families that benefited (see box 1). Even much smaller states such as Odisha and Chhattisgarh fare better than Maharashtra.
On person days of work generated, Maharashtra clocks lower than West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and even Kerala and Odisha.
However, on minimising delayed payments, Maharashtra has fared better than many, and also much better than over the past several years. The percentage of payments generated as per law within 15 days is currently 93 per cent.
Then again, on the number of households provided with 100 days of work as guaranteed by the law, the state seems unlikely to match even the previous year’s numbers. After a high of 2,18,390 households provided 100 days’ work in 2015-16, the number dropped to 1,67,832 households in 2016-17, rose to 2,01,459 households in 2017-18 and currently stands at 1,10,495 for the over 10 months of 2018-19. On average, Maharashtra provides its registered workers 39.56 days of work per household this year, down from 48.62 per cent in 2017-18.