The number of households that demanded work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, or MGNREGA, increased from 1.64 crore in 2015 to 3.07 crore in 2022, the Centre told Parliament on Tuesday.
Union Minister of State for Rural Development Niranjan Jyoti made the statement in response to a question by Congress MP Suresh Dhanorkar.
According to the data that Jyoti shared in the Lok Sabha, demand for work under MGNREGA increased from 2.48 crore in May 2019 to 3.73 crore in May 2020 – the first Covid-19 lockdown. The figure in May 2020 was the highest for that month since 2015.
The number of households that demanded MGNREGA work in May fell to 2.66 crore in May 2021, before rising again to 3.07 crore in May 2022.
In most parts of the country, the amount of work demanded under the scheme is higher in May than in any other month as it is the lean season in agriculture.
Meanwhile, in response to another question in the Lok Sabha, Jyoti said that funds released under the MGNREGA increased from Rs 32,977.43 crore in 2014-’15 to Rs 98,467.85 crore in 2020-’21.
In 2022-’23, funds worth Rs 36,677.79 crore have been released till July 27, the minister said.
The highest amount of funds, worth Rs 1,11,170.86 crore, were released in 2020-’21 when coronavirus-induced restrictions on economic activity were imposed.
While statistics mentioned by the Centre before Parliament indicate the continuing significance of the MGNREGA since its launch in 2006 by the Congress-led government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in 2015 said that the scheme must be discontinued.
“My political instincts tell me that MNREGA should not be discontinued...because it is a living memorial to your [Congress’s] failures,” Modi had said. “After so many years in power, all you were able to deliver is for a poor man to dig ditches a few days a month.”
‘Ensure adequate funds for scheme’
Hundreds of labourers and activists protested at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Tuesday, demanding adequate funding for the MGNREGA and timely payment of wages to workers.
The protestors, under the banner of the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, urged the Union government to release all pending funds to states, and ensuring adequate funding for the scheme through the year.
The protestors said that there is “incontrovertible evidence” that insufficient funding has been leading to major delays in paying wages to workers. The law requires that labourers need to be paid within 15 days of a muster roll of work.
“For this to happen, the GoI must process and transfer wages to workers as per the electronic invoices – called Funds Transfer Orders – within 7 days of receiving them from states,” a charter of demands by the protestors read.
The agitators, however, claimed that in 2021-’22, the Centre had processed only 29% of the funds transfer orders in seven days. They have demanded the payment of full compensation for delays in wages.