Even as the Centre and states eased Covid restrictions, the demand for unskilled work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) remained high in 2021-22. According to data available as on March 31, over 7.2 crore households — 10.55 crore people — from across the country availed the scheme in 2021-22.
This is the second highest since the inception of the scheme in 2006. The highest was over 7.55 crore households — 11.19 crore people — in 2020-21, the first Covid year when strict restrictions were in place.
It is a huge jump from the pre-Covid years, when the total number of households touched 5.48 crore in 2019-20; 5.27 crore in 2018-19; 5.12 crore in 2017-18.
Under the MGNREGS, every rural household is entitled to at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year. The scheme emerged as a safety net for migrants who returned to their villages in the wake of the pandemic.
According to the data, a total of 358.67 crore persondays were generated across the country during 2021-22, which is slightly lower than the 389.09 crore persondays in 2020-21, but much higher than 265.35 crore persondays in 2019-20.
Women accounted for 54.69 per cent of the total 358.67 crore persondays generated during 2021-22. The average days of employment provided per household in 2021-22 was 49.7 days — it was 51.52 days in 2020-21; 48.4 days in 2019-20.
Among the 34 states and Union Territories for which data is available, Uttar Pradesh accounted for the highest number of households at 77.5 lakh — it was 94.34 lakh in 2020-21.While some states like Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Punjab and Haryana also saw a drop in the number of families availing the rural job guarantee scheme, others like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala recorded an increase in the number of households.
In Maharashtra, the number of such households increased from 16.84 lakh in 2020-21 to 20 lakh in 2021-22. In Karnataka, it increased from 30.15 lakh in 2020-21 to 33.91 lakh in 2021-22.
The 2021-22 data is provisional and is likely to be revised upward as muster rolls data for the last week of March gets updated.