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Thursday, June 24, 2021

MGNREGS rakes up big numbers in rural Kerala

For the first time since its inception, the MGNREGS in Kerala generated a record 10.23 crore labour days in 2020-21.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: May 11, 2021 5:15:14 am
Kerala NREGS, Kerala NREGS Covid-19 lockdown, Kerala coronavirus, Kerala kerala news, kerala Kerala jobs, Indian expressIn terms of wages, Rs 3,000 crore have directly gone into the accounts of the beneficiaries (16.17 lakh households).

With a record number of labour days, increased dependence of rural households and larger participation of youngsters in manual labour, the flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has emerged as a lifeline for rural Kerala in the last fiscal of the pandemic.

For the first time since its inception, the MGNREGS in Kerala generated a record 10.23 crore labour days in 2020-21. These numbers beat the previous record of 9.75 crore labour days in 2018 — a massive flood killed over 400 people and caused widespread damage that year.

For all other years since the scheme was implemented, the labour days are below 8 crore.

Sources at the MGNREGS state mission said the record numbers of 2020-21 showed the NREGS had addressed livelihood in rural areas and had been the single largest source of income for many households. In terms of wages, Rs 3,000 crore have directly gone into the accounts of the beneficiaries (16.17 lakh households).

There are other indicators which demonstrate that NREGS has been a major source of income in rural Kerala — where this project was till now reckoned as the last resort of the senior citizens, particularly women.

Along with the sharp rise in labour days, the number of people employed in the state under the scheme also stood at record high of 18.82 lakh in 2020-21. The number of families that completed 100 days of work also jumped from 2.51 lakh in 2019-20 to 4.70 lakh in the last fiscal.

Also, the percentage of households which got jobs increased from 72.14 in 2019-20 to 77.38 in 2020-21.

The year of pandemic has also changed the age profile of job seekers under the scheme.

In 2019-20, 42.29 per cent of the workers were below the age of 50, while last year, the share of workers in this age group went up to 47.28. On the other hand, the share of those above 50 in the workforce has dipped to 52.72 per cent in the last fiscal from 57.71 per cent in 2019-20. The share of workers in the 18-30 age group was 1.38 per cent in 2019-20, this figure also increased to 2.14 per cent in 2020-21.

Officials said the livelihood crisis arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic has suddenly increased the demand for manual work.

“In the last year, thousands of people have been left jobless due to the crisis created by the pandemic. Those who had been employed in shops, establishments and service sectors such as hotels had shifted to MGNREGS as the manual work was only available in their neighborhood,” said an official.

Officials said in many households with job cards, more than one person had joined the scheme, which also contributed to an increase in the number of families who got 100 days of work in a year. “Due to reverse quarantine for those aged above 60, which had prevailed in Kerala last year, the aged could not go to the field. Instead, the youngsters in those families have stepped in to ensure the livelihood,” said the official.

In the Scheduled Tribe category, the average days of work for ST households has shot up from 77.21 per cent to 90.96 per cent. In Palakkad district, where tribal block Attappadi region is situated, ST families got 114.86 employment days, as against the target of 100 days. Each tribal family in Attappadi enrolled for the scheme had got Rs 30,000 credited to their bank accounts through this scheme in the last fiscal.

Another notable achievement of the scheme during the pandemic was that the scheme could allocate a record of 30 percent of the funds for asset creation, which would ensure a sustainable livelihood for the MGNREGS beneficiaries.

As per MGNREGS norms, 40 per cent of the labour budget can be used for creating durable, productive assets, both public and individual. Over the years, Kerala’s performance in creating assets has been low. In 2018-19, Kerala spent 8.51 per cent of the allocation for asset creation, which is spent on materials and skilled work. Last fiscal, this rose to 14.26 per cent. Sources said the assets had been created in livelihood sectors such as animal husbandry and farming sectors. MGNREGS beneficiaries get only 100 days of work in a year. The livelihood assets created would help the workers to find income throughout the year.

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