New Delhi: During the first five months of the current financial year (2020-21), various state governments have issued job cards to over 83 lakh new households under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), a jump of over 28.32% from a year ago. According to Indian Express, 64.70 lakh new job cards were issued by the government under the scheme during the 2019-20 financial year.
This comes against the backdrop of migrants workers returning to their villages from urban areas due to job losses during the lockdown.
The MGNREGA data points to the fact that the national employment scheme has appeared to be the saving grace for rural India to ride over the economic distress caused by the pandemic-induced national lockdown.
The report also highlights that Uttar Pradesh has issued the highest number of job cards in the last five months (21.09 lakh), followed by Bihar (11.22 lakh), West Bengal (6.82 lakh), Rajasthan (6.58 lakh) and Madhya Pradesh (5.56 lakh). These states had witnessed a considerable number of migrants returning home.
According to data on the NREGA website, UP issued 21.09 lakh new cards as against 7.72 lakh in the last year, witnessing a 173% increase – the highest among all the states. UP is followed by Andhra Pradesh with 154% growth in new job cards under the scheme.
As of September 3, 2020, the cumulative number of job cards stands at 143.6 million, the report showed.
In this year’s Union budget announced in February, the funds allotted by the Narendra Modi government for MGNREGA scheme (MGNREGS) came down by Rs 9,500 crore. Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had allocated Rs 61,500 crore for the national scheme for 2020-21, over 13% less than the total estimated expenditure of Rs 71,001.81 crore for the 2019-20 financial year.
This week, Bloomberg reported, quoting an official at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, that the government is looking at extending this flagship employment scheme to the urban areas too to arrest the surge in unemployment due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown. “The idea is to start with smaller towns because big city projects typically need professional expertise,” the official said.