Among the tasks facing the new government is reviving the UPA’s flagship rural job guarantee scheme that has seen the demand for work dipping, reflected by a decline in the total employment provided to households and the total persondays created under the scheme.
Gopinath Munde, who died a week after taking charge as rural development minister, had emphasised improving the delivery of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and correcting the problem of delayed wages.
MGNREGA, introduced in 2006, promises 100 days of employment to each rural household every year. According to latest data from the Ministry of Rural Development, the employment provided to households — those given at least one day of employment — has fallen consistently since 2010-11. The scheme has been the most expensive social sector scheme with an allocation of Rs 33,000 crore in the 2013-14 budget.
The total persondays created under the scheme also went down to 218 crore in 2013-14 from 230 crore in 2012-13. While the figure in 2012-13 was higher than in 2011-12 (219 crore), it has been on the decline since 2009-10, the year after the scheme was expanded to cover over 600 districts.
According to ministry officials, the scheme is demand-driven, hence a decline in these figures would mean a decline in demand. Officials say the decline is largely due to implementation flaws in the scheme, and mainly delayed wage payments that have discouraged beneficiaries from seeking work. Officials add the figures reflect to some extent a supply-side problem with implementing agencies unable to plan and generate enough work.
The Indian Express had earlier reported how only 10 per cent households who got work last year actually completed or got 100 days of work.