Despite these shortcomings, the study found that MGNREGA made a marked difference during the pandemic, protecting the most vulnerable households from significant loss of income. MGNREGA’s increased profits were able to offset 20 to 80 per cent of the revenue loss depending on the block.
The survey was conducted between November and December 2021 in the following blocks: Phulparas (Madhubani) and Chhatapur (Supaul) in Bihar, Bidar (Bidar) and Devadurga (Raichur) in Karnataka, Khalwa (Khandwa) and Ghatigaon (Gwalior) in Madhya Pradesh, Wardha (Wardha) and Surgana (Nashik) in Maharashtra. The study’s sampling method ensures that the findings are representative of all households that have work cards on the block.
Covid-19 underscores role of MGNREGA
“Our study shows how much workers value the necessity and usefulness of MGNREGA. More than 8 out of 10 households recommended that MGNREGA should provide 100 days of employment per person per year. We also found a lot of underfunding. A conservative estimate is that allocations in the surveyed blocks should have been three times the amount actually allocated in the year after the lockdown to meet the true extent of labour demand,” said Rajendran Narayanan, co-author of the study and member of the faculty at Azim Premji University.
Ashwini Kulkarni of the NREGA Consortium said that “One of the purposes of MGNREGA is as a social protection measure in times of distress. Covid Pandemic, the lockdown created unprecedented distress and MGNREGA, as expected, rose to the occasion and provided work for many more villages and many more households than in previous years.
MGNREGA’s role in reducing vulnerability has been re-emphasized and remains vitally important in post-pandemic times. We, as Civil Society Organizations, have the responsibility to transmit the voices of the people to policymakers to refine the implementation process, this report is an effort in that direction”.
- Across all blocks, roughly 39 per cent of all the job card-holding households interested in working in MGNREGA in the Covid year could not get a single day of work while they wanted 77 days of work on average.
- Among households that found some work, the unmet demand (difference between the number of days desired and a number of days of work received) across all blocks was 64 days.
- As per the MGNREGA Management Information System (MIS), the total amount spent on labour in the surveyed blocks in the Covid year (FY 2020-21) was ₹152.68 crores. As per our conservative estimate, to fulfil the true demand for work in these blocks, the allocated labour budget should have been ₹ 474.27 crores, i.e., more than 3 times the amount actually spent on wages.
- The most frequently mentioned reason for not getting as much work as needed, across all blocks, was the lack of adequate work being sanctioned/opened. On average, 63% of all job card-holding households cited this reason in the surveyed blocks.
- On average, only 36% of all households that worked during the Covid year got their wages within 15 days.
- For households who found work in both periods (pre-Covid and Covid), increased earnings from MGNREGA were able to compensate for somewhere between 20 to 80 per cent of income loss depending on the block.
- For households who had not worked in the pre-Covid year but did find work during the Covid year, we find that MGNREGA earnings compensated for anywhere between 20% and 100% of income lost from other sources.
- More than 8 in 10 households recommended that MGNREGA should be 100 days per person per year and 3 out of 5 households said that MGNREGA contributed positively to overall development in their village
- Despite low wages and payment delays, MGNREGA clearly made a difference during the pandemic, insuring some of the most vulnerable households against income losses. But it fell quite a bit short of fully protecting households either because it did not meet their demand or completely excluded them from the programme.
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