New Delhi: The erstwhile UPA government's flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is on a revival mode, employment figures relating to the welfare programme over the last two quarters suggest.
According to data corresponding to the July-September quarter put up by the Union Ministry of Rural Development on its website, employment under the scheme during the period touched 45.82 crore person-days, the highest for the quarter in the last five years.
The last quarter of October-December also points to a similar trend. As per officials of the Rural Development ministry, the government provided 14.09 crore person-days employment in October alone, a record for the month. The data for the entire quarter is still being uploaded, but officials expect the total person-days of work during the quarter to stand at around 47 crore - again a five-year-high for the quarter.
According to officials, the turnaround witnessed in the employment figures under the programme is primarily on the back of better monitoring by the Centre and timely release of funds.
The proportion of delayed payments i.e., beyond 15 days after the closure of muster rolls, also fell 19 per cent – from 72 per cent to 53 per cent in 2014-15.
Launched by the UPA government in 2005, the MNREGS provides 100 days of guaranteed annual wage employment to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
The apparent revival over the last two quarters bucks the declining employment trend witnessed during the first year of the Modi government. In 2014-15, when the new government came to power, the programme generated only 166.32 crore person-days employment. The figures were much higher (221.15 crore and 230.33 crore) in the two preceding fiscals.
The highest employment figure of 283.59 crore was seen in 2009-10, a drought year.
Besides a drop witnessed in the number of person-days generated under the employment programme in Modi government's first year, the average days of employment provided per household also 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. Officials expect the figure to cross 50 days March-end.
However, five states – Tamil Nadu (24.9 crore), Andhra Pradesh (14.6 crore), Rajasthan (14.3 crore), West Bengal (13.6 crore) and Uttar Pradesh (10.9 crore) – cumulatively constitute over 50 per cent of the 137 crore person-days of MGNREGA employment generated so far in 2015-16.
On the other hand, states worst affected by drought – Maharashtra (4.5 crore), Karnataka (2.5 crore) or even Madhya Pradesh (6.6 crore) and Chhattisgarh (3.7 crore) – haven't registered any significant uptake in MGNREGA works.