Updated: April 2, 2021 7:30:53 am
As tens of thousands of migrants returned to their villages following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the national lockdown that followed last year, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) emerged as a safety net for labourers in rural areas.
Over 11 crore people worked under the scheme during the financial year 2020-21 — the first time since its inception in 2006-07 that the MGNREGS numbers crossed the 11-crore mark in a year.
Data available on April 1 show that 11.17 crore individuals availed the scheme in 2020-21, up 41.75 per cent from 7.88 crore in 2019-20.
The total number of people, who availed the scheme, had been in the range of 6.21-7.88 crore between 2013-14 and 2019-20 — a period for which comparable data is available. But in the wake of job losses during the pandemic, an additional 3 crore plus people turned to the rural job scheme.
According to the data, a record high of 7.54 crore rural households worked under the MGNREGS during 2020-21 — 37.59 per cent higher than 5.48 crore in 2019-20. The previous high of 5.5 crore was recorded in 2010-11.
The numbers for individuals and households are likely to be revised upward once the muster roll data for the last week of March gets updated.
Under the MGNREGS, every rural household, whose adult member volunteers to do unskilled manual work, is entitled to get at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year.
Launched in 200 most backward rural districts of the country in 2006-07, the scheme was extended to an additional 130 districts during 2007-08, and to the entire country 2008-09 onward.
In 2020-21, the number of households that completed 100-day employment also reached an all-time high of 68.58 lakh, an increase of 68.91 per cent from 40.60 lakh in 2019-20.
The average days of employment provided per household too went up marginally from 48.4 days in 2019-20 to 51.51 days in 2020-21.
In all, 385.89 crore person days were generated in 2020-21, which is 45.43 per cent higher than 265.35 crore in 2019-20.
In the pandemic year, the expenditure on MGNREGS also reached a new high. In 2020-21, the total expenditure was Rs 110,802.05 crore — 62.31 per cent higher than Rs 68,265.97 crore in 2019-20.
As part of the economic package announced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government declared additional funding of Rs 40,000 crore for the MGNREGS, over and above the Rs 61,500 crore allocated in the Union Budget 2020-21.
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