After months, job demand under MGNREGS on the upswing again

2021-01-10 23:38:27

NEW DELHI: MGNREGS in December generated three crore more persondays than in November 2020, putting the job scheme back on an upward graph after few months of relatively stable numbers and suggesting that it may once again test the government with the demand.
The flagship scheme widely credited with rescuing the rural poor during the massive job loss in the pandemic year notched 25.1 crore persondays in December as against around 22.2 crore in November.
The spike in the last month of 2020 is significant because the job scheme appeared to be defying the trends of past decade when November marked a dip in work done from earlier months. It was in sharp contrast to earlier years when work has shown to peak till May before starting to fall till October and then reviving again in November, with the rise lasting till March.
The annual post-October spike is because of the end of farm season which diverts job hands from fields to MGNREGS work sites.
The December results appear to suggest that post-farm season has set in MGNREGS, albeit a month later, sending the rural poor back to the job scheme in search of work.
The fall in work done in November 2020, against the historical trend of expected rise, led many to wonder if the job scheme had the further capacity for upward movement after touching record highs over previous years during the pandemic.
Contrary to past, there was hardly any fall in work generation during the August-October phase. Even when the work generated dipped from 26.2 crore persondays in October to 22.2 crore in November, it was 5.2 crore persondays higher than what was logged in November 2019.
The Union rural development ministry believes that the sharp dip in work has been on account of the return of migrant workers back to cities after the reverse migration post-lockdown.
That the agriculture season is over and workers are back to MGNREGS — as evidenced from December numbers — would be watched for its intensity in the first months of 2021. If January too shows a spike, and that too a sharp one, then the government and the budget may be in for a testing time.
As per figures, 1.9 crore households were provided work during December while the number was 1.8 crore households in November. In contrast, as many as 2.6 crore households sought work in December as against 2.3 crore households in November — the figures showing a conclusive trend towards greater demand.

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