The spike is likewise for major states across the country as it becomes clear that more and more families are seeking shelter under the flagship job scheme in the wake of destruction of employment owing to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.
Madhya Pradesh has already covered 53% households who worked last year, Karnataka 46% of households and Gujarat 55% households. The rush towards the distress labour programme is staggered during an year and the annual tally of households or persons who work in MGNREGA stabilises during the course of months. For states to attract such high numbers of potential participants right at the start suggests an acute shortage of work as also high demand.
“It shows desperation, that there is no other place to go for work and MGNREGA is the only option,” says Nikhil Dey, an expert on job scheme and activist with MKSS.
But in sharp contrast to the number of families who are turning up for employment, the work generated is not keeping pace.
In AP, the total persondays generated this year is only 34.3% of the total work done in 2019-20 though the number of households who have worked already is 86% of those who participated in MGNREGA during the entire last year. In Chhattisgarh, the persondays generated is just above 39% of last year.
In UP, the persondays generated in 40-odd days is 20% of last year though 68% of last year’s households has already participated this year. The comparative figure for persondays is 19% in MP, 18% in Karnataka and 22% in Gujarat.
Experts see a yawning gap between the number of persons or households working and the persondays generated. “Based on figures, my surmise is that not enough work is being generated and the administration is following a rotation policy – not everyone is working every day but people are being given work by turns. It is not demand-driven but work-driven,” an expert argued.