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May 11, 2024

MGNREGA Impact: Bengal, UP, Rajasthan Lead in Work Availment During NDA Rule

During the tenure of the Narendra Modi government, states like Bengal, Uttar Pradesh (UP), and Rajasthan have emerged as the frontrunners in availing work opportunities under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). According to data, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, UP, Rajasthan, and Andhra Pradesh have shown significant utilization of the scheme by households, with the highest percentages relative to the total accessing employment under MGNREGS in the past decade.

Despite varying economic trajectories, these states have demonstrated noteworthy participation in MGNREGS, indicating that effective administration and implementation of the scheme play pivotal roles. Among them, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and West Bengal are categorized as relatively poorer states, while Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have witnessed better economic growth.

Tamil Nadu particularly stands out for its exemplary performance, consistently maintaining high numbers of households accessing work under the scheme. However, West Bengal’s progress hit a roadblock when funds under MGNREGS were suspended from March 9, 2022, due to non-compliance with central government directives.

MGNREGA, introduced on September 7, 2005, initially in 200 districts, achieved nationwide coverage by 2008. Credited with bringing the UPA back to power in 2009, it has seen a total expenditure of roughly Rs 7.64 trillion since 2014. Notably, there has been an observed increase in allocation, especially during the pandemic-affected years of 2020-21.

In the fiscal year 2023-24, the scheme generated 3.06 billion person-days of work, compared to 2.93 billion in 2022-23, indicating a positive trend in employment generation.

However, MGNREGA has not been without its share of controversies. A 2013 CAG report highlighted that only 20% of allocated funds were released for Bihar, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh, despite these states accounting for nearly 46% of the rural poor from 2009-10 to 2011-12. Additionally, a study by Ashok Gulati revealed that while real farm wages increased by nearly 6.8% annually from 2006-07, the impact of overall GDP, agriculture GDP, and construction GDP surpassed MGNREGA by 4-6 times.

On the other hand, a 2015 NCAER study found that the Act contributed to a 32% reduction in poverty between 2004-05 and 2011-12, underscoring its positive impact on poverty alleviation.

In conclusion, MGNREGA has been a significant tool for providing employment opportunities, especially in states like Bengal, UP, and Rajasthan, during the NDA regime. While controversies exist, its role in poverty reduction cannot be overlooked, emphasizing the need for effective implementation and equitable distribution of funds to ensure its continued success.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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