Around 31 million households have demanded work under the flagship MGNREGA in the month of May this year, which is almost 11 per cent more than the same period last year and much higher than the corresponding pre-Covid period, data sourced from the website showed today.
In April 2022, around 23.26 million households have sought work under the scheme which as per the provisional data for May has risen to almost 31 million households.
The April 2022 work demand was almost 11.15 per cent less than the corresponding period of April 2021.
In May 2019, which was a year-before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, around 25 million households had sought work under the scheme.
The rise in work demand civil society activists said was a reflection of the continued slow return to economic normalcy in the rural areas.
"In April 2022, there was slight dip in work demanded year on year but it is purely due to artificial suppression because of fund flow was constrained in several states which is why I feel work demand has come back to normal levels as soon as funds have started flowing in," Nikhil Dey founder member of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, a grassroots based organization told Business Standard.
“Usually, when wage payments are timely and prompt, workers tend to come more for MGNREGA work and hence when the payment is delayed, they look for other work avenues,” Dey clarified.
He said all these should make a case for increase in MGNREGA budget allocation for FY-23.
Civil society activists and others have been pointing out that the Budget allocated for MGNREGA in FY-23 is grossly inadequate and could lead to artificial suppression of demand.
Their argument is despite allocation around Rs 73,000 crore in FY-23 for the scheme, actual spend could be quite less as a significant chunk (almost Rs 20,000 crore) could go towards clearing pending dues from the last financial year.
In FY-22, the Centre had budgeted Rs 73,000 crore for MGNREGA but ended up spending almost Rs 98,000 crore due to continued robust work demand.
Similarly, in FY-21, which is considered a landmark year for the scheme due to sudden spike in demand because of reverse migration of millions of laborers from cities to villages after the first lockdown, the Centre spent a record Rs 1,11,170 crore for MGNREGA.
Though, it had budgeted for much less.