Since last 2-3 years Number of job days created under MNREGA has been deteriorating. In 2014-15, the programme — which provides 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work — generated only 166.32 crore person-days employment, compared to 221.15 crore and 230.33 crore in the preceding two fiscals and the peak 283.59 crore achieved in 2009-10 (a drought year) .
• Also, the average days of employment provided per household dropped to 40.17 in 2014-15, from 45.98 in 2013-14, 46.19 in 2012-13 and 53.19 days in the best performance year of 2009-10
• MNREGA appears to be staging a revival of sorts in the latest quarter. And this turnaround is being attributed mainly to better monitoring by the Centre and timely release of funds.
• The July-September quarter witnessed 45.82 crore person-days of employment generated under MGNREGA. This was the highest for the quarter in the last five years. “It was more than even the 42.40 crore person-days during July-September 2012, which also happened to be a not-so-good monsoon year.
Reasons for this turnaround:
• Experts and officials believe that better numbers this year mainly to better monitoring by the Centre and timely release of funds. In 2014-15, most states, including those implementing the programme well, ran out of funds by October. When supply of funds dried up, leading to delayed payment of wages, there was less demand from the Gram Panchayats as well to take up works even in a drought year.
• That has changed this year, with the proportion of delayed payments — i.e. beyond 15 days after the closure of muster rolls — falling to 53 per cent from 72 per cent in 2014-15.
• Development economists believe that MGNREGA’s apparent turnaround in the last two quarters was a result of political and civil society pressure, forcing the government to release funds.
Sustainability of the turnaround:
• Experts believe that the turnaround could well be temporary, given the continuing paucity of funding for the programme.
• Currently, 12 states have a negative fund balance totaling Rs 1,089 crores that makes it impossible for Gram Panchayats to take up fresh works under the scheme.
• Apart from these, states such as Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Manipur face the danger of slipping into a negative balance if additional funds are not made available. Even Rajasthan, which is beset by drought, has run out of money. Chhattisgarh, which has been performing well on MNREGA before, has been squeezed dry last few months due to lack of funds.
• In the current fiscal, merely 4 per cent of the total 3.75 crore MGNREGA-registered households have been provided their entire 100 days work entitlement. The average number of days of employment provided per household for the entire country so far during 2015-16 is 38.
• Thus above figures indicate that NDA government has finally understood the importance of MNREGA as a cushion during drought conditions and as a result the funds for MNREGA have been released at adequate time by the government, However this should not be a onetime affair, the long run sustainability of MNREGA Depends on continuous attention on MNREGA even in non-drought years.