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In pandemic year, NREGS trends show new normal | India News


NEW DELHI: The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the established trends of MGNREGA into disarray — work generated in November has dipped from October instead of rising as in earlier years. But it still stands 5.2 crore persondays (mandays) higher than what was logged in November last year.
Persondays generated in November this year (22.2 crore) are unexpectedly higher than the 16.9 crore in November last year. It is viewed as proof that MGNREGA continues to sustain rural employment and demand remains much higher than in past years — despite return of workers to cities. Experts view it as the persisting impact of loss of jobs owing to the pandemic. The trend till now has been that work demand and persondays generated increased in April-May and then softened in June with a sharp decline in July-October before picking up again in November.
In 2019-20, persondays generated stood at 36.9 crore in May, followed by 32.1 crore in June, 19.4 crore in July, 15.3 crore in August, 14.7 crore in September and 13.8 crore in October before rising to 16.9 crore in November. However, 2020-21 has not followed the trend witnessed over a decade. Persondays rose to a record peak of 64 crore in June and slipped to 26 crore in August. But the August-October period was a stable phase with virtually no slackening of demand like in past years. Persondays increased from August to September by a negligible 34 lakh and decreased by 13 lakh in October.
The annual post-June dip is because of the agriculture season that provides alternative employment for rural people. But the fact that work maintained a stable graph from August-October suggests that MGNREGA continued to witness demand since farms could not accommodate the high numbers seeking work in the countryside.
However, the surprise of the package is November when persondays generated stood at 22.2 crore against 26.2 crore in October — it is contrary to the past trend when November witnesses a revival in work done after dip till October. The fall from October to November, instead of rising like in the past, is viewed by the rural development ministry as reflective that migrant workers, whose return to villages pushed up demand at the height of the pandemic, have gone back to cities.
However, NGOs working on MGNREGA say 85-90% of the Union budget has been spent in the first seven months and there is reluctance on the part of authorities to approve work, which has depressed persondays.

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