Livelihoods: The demand for work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (NREGA) increased by 89 percent to 2.54 crore households in April this year, against 1.34 crore in April 2020, according to data from the Ministry of Rural Development.
This is the highest demand in any April since compilation of this data started in 2013. This rise coincides with the exodus of migrant workers from cities to their villages on the back of restrictions such as curfews and lockdowns imposed by states to curb the surge in COVID-19 infections.
An average of 1.6 crore rural households have demanded work in April over the last eight years. April 2020 recorded the lowest demand during these years as work was partially suspended due to the nationwide lockdown.
With NREGA being a demand-driven scheme, a top government official told Economic Times that the rural development ministry is constantly monitoring the situation, and that funds would be made available as and when required.
The Centre had allocated INR 73,000 crore to the scheme in FY 2021-22, which is 34 percent less than the INR 1.11 lakh crore spent last fiscal. The original budgeted spending for the scheme for FY 2020-21 was around INR 60,000 crore but was increased last year to meet the surge in demand due to the national lockdown and large-scale reverse migration to villages.
Read this article on how putting women at the front and centre of NREGA can change societal perceptions of what women can and cannot do.