In the second pandemic year, demand for work under the rural employment guarantee scheme, MGNREGS, remains elevated though it is off the earlier peak, says the economic survey. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme promises 100 days of work for the rural poor. MGNREGS employment peaked during the nationwide lockdown in 2020. Demand for work under the scheme stabilised after the second COVID-19 wave in the summer of 2021 but aggregate MGNREGS employment is still higher than pre-pandemic levels.
During the second COVID-19 wave, demand for MGNREGS employment reached the maximum level of 4.59 crore persons in June 2021. Person days is the number of people working under the scheme per day multiplied by the number of days they work. The survey also says that for some states like Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, demand for work under MGNREGS has fallen below pre-pandemic levels during the last few months.
And while punching holes in the theory that increased reverse migration due to COVID-19 led to higher demand for work under MGNREGS, the survey has said that many source States witnessed declining demand for work in most months of 2021.
“Intuitively, one may expect that higher MGNREGS demand may be directly related to the movement of migrant labour i.e. source States would be more impacted. Nevertheless, State level analysis shows that for many migrant source States like West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, the MGNREGS employment in most months of 2021 has been lower than the corresponding levels in 2020. In contrast, the demand for MGNREGS employment has been higher for migrant recipient States like Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for most months in 2021 over 2020. There are still other States that do not neatly fit into this categorization. Therefore, the relationship between MGNREGS employment and movement of migrant labour during the last two years cannot be conclusively determined, and requires further research,” the survey said.The budgetary allocation for MGNREGS in FY22 increased to Rs 73,000 crore from Rs 61,500 crore in FY21 and further to Rs 98,000 crore so far. Over 8.70 crore individuals and 6.10 crore households have been provided work under this scheme so far this fiscal year. Since allocation has not even reached the Rs 1 lakh crore mark till now, there is a slim likelihood that activists’ demand of nearly tripling it for FY23 will be met.
The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) had envisaged housing for all by 2022. This target appears to be tough to achieve, as the survey says that as of January 18 this year, 2.17 crore houses had been sanctioned and 1.69 crore completed against a target of 2.63 crore houses to be completed by March 2022.
Under PMAY-G, landless beneficiaries are accorded highest priority in the allotment of houses. As of January 18, States and UTs have identified 4,46,058 landless beneficiaries in the Permanent Wait List of PMAY-G, out of which 2,05,847 (46 percent) have been provided with land. Again, more than half the target remains on paper. Since PMAY-G was launched in 2016, the largest number of houses completed was in election year 2018-19, at 47.3 lakh. There is no indication of the timeline by when the target of providing housing for all will be met.Rural roadsUnder the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana I, which was launched in 2000 and valid till September 2022, the target was to provide connectivity to eligible unconnected habitations with a population of 500+ in the plains and 250+ in North-Eastern and Himalayan States, desert areas, tribal areas and selected tribal and backward districts. The survey shows that over 6 lakh km of roads have been constructed under the scheme but does not say whether the target in terms of actually providing connectivity to habitations in the identified areas has been achieved. In any case, the government has launched more chapters of PMGSY with incremental targets.