As job demand grows in MGNREGS, rural ministry may seek funds

The rural development ministry is likely to demand more than 20,000 crore additional budget from the Union finance ministry
As of Thursday, 61.9 million households and 88.5 million workers have participated in MGNREGS this financial year. (PTI)
As of Thursday, 61.9 million households and 88.5 million workers have participated in MGNREGS this financial year. (PTI)
Updated on Nov 26, 2021 04:56 AM IST
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Faced with a high flow of job seekers in the flagship MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), the rural development ministry is likely to demand more than 20,000 crore additional budget from the Union finance ministry to overcome the shortage of funds in the legally guaranteed work programme, according to people in the know.

“We would demand at least 20,000 crore,” a top-ranking bureaucrat told HT.

The second wave of the Covid pandemic and a slower-than-expected rate of recovery of the economy have led to higher participation in the scheme, considered the last resort for wages in rural India.

As of Thursday, 61.9 million households and 88.5 million workers have participated in the scheme this financial year, with only 1.6 million households able to exhaust the full quota of 100 days mandated by the law. These are higher employment rates than in FY2019, 2018 and 2017. FY20-21, which saw 75.5 million households and 111.9 million people, reflected the exceptional year of pandemic and lockdowns.

The government’s own data shows that it already has a negative balance of funds with four more months of work yet to be carried out. The MGNEGS portal shows total expenses stand at 100.98% of the funds. While the total availability for the entire year was 75,889 crore, expenses as on date stand at 76,632 crore.

With winter setting in the Indian subcontinent, experts and officials underline that more people are expected to join MGNREGS as November to March is the preferred time for construction-related work.

The rural development ministry said in a release last month that the Centre is “committed to release funds for wage and material payments” for proper implementation of the demand-driven scheme that gives a guarantee for jobs or compensation in case jobs could not be given.

“Whenever additional fund is required, the ministry of finance is requested to provide the funds. In the previous financial year, the ministry of finance allocated 50,000 crore in additional funds for the scheme over and above that of BE [budget estimates],” the release said.

Government functionaries underlined that the demand for work has so far generated more than 2.4 billion person-days as employment has been offered to more than 99% of those who sought jobs.

“We expected demand will come down this year but economic recovery has been slow. The second wave also contributed to the surge in demand,” said the top-ranking official cited above.

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Saturday, December 04, 2021