The Centre has constituted a committee to study the performance of states and governance issues under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
According to an order issued by the Ministry of Rural Development, the 9-member committee, headed by former rural development department secretary Amarjeet Sinha, has been given three months to complete the study and submit a report.
The order, dated October 31, 2022, was issued with the approval of Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh.
The committee has been asked to examine various factors affecting demand for wage employment in the rural sector in different parts of the country.
As per the order, the committee will also study/analyse the trends of expenditure across states under the MGNREGS along with reasons for inter-state variations, with specific focus on governance issues.
“To examine if composition of MGNREGS works may require change of focus considering over 15-year-record of implementation, developments such as extension of irrigation facilities, extensive work from multiple sources in various domains such as drinking water, sanitation, impending climate change etc,” reads the terms of reference for the committee.
As per the order, the committee has also been given a mandate to recommend institutional mechanisms, including governance and administrative structures, for more effective utilisation of MGNREGS funds especially for addressing poverty and augmenting livelihoods.
The members of the committee include Dr Sekhar Bonu, director general, DEMO, NITI Aayog; Prof. Ashok Pankaj, former director of Council for Social Development; Prof Sonalde Desai, Director, National Council of Applied Economic Research-National Data Innovation Centre; Praveen Mahto, Chief Economic Advisor, Rural Development Ministry; a representative from NITI Aayog of the rank of Joint Secretary or above; a representative of Ministry of Panchayati Raj; Prof Jyothis Sathyapalan, National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj; and Amit Kataria, Joint Secretary (MGNREGA), Rural Development Ministry.
The MGNREGS was launched by the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by the Congress in 200 most-backward districts of the country in 2006. It was extended to 130 more districts during 2007-08 and to the entire country in 2008-09.
The MGNREGS guarantees 100-day wage employment in a financial year to every rural household. The scheme became a safety net for migrants who returned to their village during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.
As per the data available on the scheme portal, 7.55 crore families (11.19 crore persons) availed the scheme during 2020-21. However, the number came down marginally to 7.26 families (10.62 crore people) during 2021-22. In the current financial year 2022-23, 5.21 crore families (7.22 crore people) have availed the scheme till November 26, 2022.
Speaking in Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had described the MGNREGS as the “living monument” of the UPA’s failures.
Modi had said, “Kabhee kabhaar yah kaha jaata hai ki aap MGNREGA band kar denge ya aapane band kar diya hai… meree raajanitik soojh bujh kahatee hai ki MGNREGA kabhee band mat karo. Main aisee galatee nahin kar sakata kyonki narega aapakee viphalataon ka jeeta jaagata smaarak hai aur main gaaje baje ke saath is smaarak ka dhol peetata rahoonga.” (Sometimes it is said that you will stop the MGNREGA or you have stopped… My political acumen says that never shut down the MGNREGA. I cannot make such a mistake because MGNREGA is a living monument of your failures and I will keep telling all about this monument.)