In yet another indication of the dismal performance of the scheme this financial year, less than 3 per cent households were able to complete the promised 100 days of employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) this year, effectively meaning that 97 per cent of the beneficiaries have not been able to use the scheme to its maximum intended capacity.
Introduced in February 2006, MGNREGA promises 100 days of employment every year to each rural household. The scheme has faced controversy since the NDA government came to power with several activists, economists and opposition parties accusing the government of trying to dilute the scheme and squeeze its funds.
As per data with the Rural Development Ministry, only 2.79 per cent of the total households who got work under the scheme this financial year actually worked for the full 100 days till December 31. As per the ministry’s MIS updated regularly, the figure has improved only marginally since then to just a little over 3 per cent now.
Last fiscal year, 10 per cent households who worked under the scheme completed 100 days of work. This figure has never been too encouraging, at 10 per cent for FY 2012-13 and 8 per cent for 2011-12.
Ministry officials say this year’s figures could improve by March end since data comes with a lag. However, they add it is unlikely to go up much. The particularly poor performance of the scheme this year has been triggered by a funds crunch at the ground level and an unfavourable pattern of funds release. Officials say there were massive delays in release of funds by the Centre to states this fiscal, hampering the ability to plan work and provide employment on the ground. The delay in release of funds also caused huge delays in payment of wages, thus discouraging many from seeking work under the scheme.
The Indian Express had reported last week how over 70 per cent of the wages have been delayed this year and that each household on an average has been provided employment for just a little over one-third of the mandated 100 days so far.