Of the ₹75,323 crore available for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), 99.88 per cent (₹75, 234 crore) has been utilised till date in the current financial year.

The Centre has released ₹67,704 crore as of November 17, per government data. With four months to go in 2021-2022, the States are demanding that the Centre must make provision for additional funds for the scheme as the demand for work in rural areas grows.

In the current financial year, ₹49,468 crore has been utilised for wages which is the highest compared to wages given during 2017-2018 to 2019-2020. During the pandemic year 2020-21, ₹78,023 crore was released for wages.

The expenditure for material required for works has gone up substantially to 32.29 per cent of the ₹23,595 crore allocated for material and skilled wages.

Interestingly, women person-days have gone up to 54 per cent this financial year compared to 53.19 per cent during last year when the pandemic-induced lockdowns were imposed.

The MGNREGS is a demand-driven scheme for the enhancement of livelihood security of households in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in every financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

Work requirements

“The Central government has to immediately make an additional allocation for the scheme as the situation is grave in rural areas. In the recent survey, we found that 40 per cent of the surveyed population cut down on food consumption. There are many reports and data which show that the situation in rural areas remains a cause for concern because of lockdowns and spread of Covid,” said Ashwini Kulkarni of Pragati Abhiyan, the organisation working to facilitate MGNREGS work in Maharashtra villages. She said the State governments should use their funds so that people don’t remain without work.

The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, the organisation working with the rural population in India, says that the Union government has to release pending wages of ₹5,093.95 crore to the States. States like Tamil Nadu are still waiting for the pending wages of ₹1,393 crore while Andhra Pradesh has to receive ₹801.5 crore.

The pending wages from the Central government must be released immediately. Considering the need for creating more employment in the rural parts of the State, adequate additional allocations be made for MGNREGA. Provision of at least 150 days of work for each job card holding household in this financial year is must,” the organisation demanded.

The Centre’s stand

The Ministry of Rural Development told the Lok Sabha in August, “Government of India is committed to making funds available to States/UTs for the implementation of the scheme. The Ministry seeks additional funds as and when required for meeting the demand for work on the ground”.

According to the Ministry data, a total of more than 6 crore households have got wage employment during the current financial year against their demand. Employment has been offered to 99.63 per cent of the total demand of wage employment and against the offer of employment, a total of 87.35 per cent of beneficiaries has turned up for work per their will.

The Ministry said 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 additional funds for the scheme over and above the Budget estimate.