AMID THE Covid outbreak, the share of women in total person-days of work generated under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) has dipped to an eight-year low of 52.46 per cent during the first five months of this financial year, according to official data.
An analysis of data available on the NREGS portal till August 24 shows that the share of women is the lowest since 2013-14 (52.82 per cent), from when the numbers are currently available.
The data show a steady rise from 2013-14 to a high of 56.16 per cent in 2016 (see chart) — the latest number is a dip of 2.24 percentage points from last year.
There are about 13.34 crore active NREGS workers of which 6.58 crore, or 49 per cent, are women.
No official reason has been provided for the dip this year although sources pointed to the increased participation of men following the largescale return of migrant workers to their villages in the wake of economic distress caused by the pandemic.
The data also shows that against the target of 280.72 crore persondays during the current year, over 183 crore persondays have already been generated, signalling the distress in rural India.
In all, 18 states and Union Territories have seen a decline in women’s share in total persondays during this financial year, while 14 have seen a marginal increase.
While the national average of the decline in women’s share stood at 2.24 per cent, Andhra Pradesh registered the sharpest fall of 3.58 — from 60.05 last year to 56.47 — followed by West Bengal (3.32), Telangana (2.62) and Himachal Pradesh (2.44).
Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Bihar, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Andaman and Nicobar Islands are other states and UTs that have seen a decline.
Among the states that have seen an increase in women’s share are Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Gujarat, Kerala, Odisha, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Assam, Karnataka, Puducherry, Goa, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura.
Kerala has the highest (91.38 per cent) share of women’s persondays in the total during the current year, followed by Puducherry (87), Tamil Nadu (84.82), Goa (75.75), Rajasthan (65.35) and Himachal Pradesh (60.31).
J&K has the lowest participation at 30.72 per cent, followed by UP (33), Nagaland (36), Arunachal Pradesh (40), Jharkhand (40.77) and Madhya Pradesh (41).