In what could be a big question mark on the world’s largest jobs scheme, the number of people who availed the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) fell 8.4% year-on-year in 2013-14, reports Raj Kumar Ray in New Delhi. Also, only a tenth of the people enrolled got the promised 100 days of work under the scheme. The number of persons who availed MGNREGS fell from 8.2 crore in 2011-12 to 7.97 crore in 2012-13 and further to 7.31 crore last fiscal, data collated by the rural development ministry show. Importantly, the decline in MGNREGS jobs is despite the fact that demand for such work has risen from 5.04 crore households in 2012-13 to 5.11 crore last fiscal and a pile-up of projects identified for the scheme.
While implementation of most welfare schemes have generally been tardy, what's particularly worrisome about MGNREGS is the delay in wage payments to poor daily-wage earners — about 26% of MGNREGS workers got wages after a delay of 30 days even though most of them have an account either with a bank or a post office through which money is remitted for the flagship scheme.
Analysts call for urgent governance reforms to improve the implementation of welfare schemes such as MGNREGS. While robust farm output and reduction in poverty levels may have reduced the dependence for MGNREGS to some extent, analysts still point to huge demand for decent jobs in the country.
"The new government needs to make the improvement of business process of delivery (in welfare schemes) its priority. No amount of top level policy tinkering is going to fix the problem," said Rathin Roy, director at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.
“The reduction in level of employment generated under NREGA is a cause for serious concern and a reflection of half-heartedly implementation of NREGA by UPA-II,” said Reetika Khera, an economist at IIT Delhi.
The number of households provided jobs under MGNREGS fell by 4.8% to 4.75 crore in 2013-14, which is steeper than the 1.5% decline in 2012-13 but better than the 9.2% fall in 2011-12. Since inception in 2006, the jobs provided under the scheme has risen sharply by 60% in 2007-08 but growth started tapering off to 33% in 2008-09, and 16.4% in 2009-10 and 4.6% in 2010-11.
In contrast, the demand from household for the 100-day job scheme was been consistently growing expect in 2011-12, when it fell