News Analysis | Odisha faces uphill task in doubling jobs under MGNREGS

April 30, 2020 09:11 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 06:40 am IST - BHUBANESWAR

Representational image only.

Representational image only.

Given Odisha’s track record in job creation under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the State government is likely to face an uphill task in implementing Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s directive to scale up employment generation for migrant workers returning home from other parts of the country.

 

Earlier this week, reviewing the State’s preparedness to receive a large influx of returning workers, Mr. Patnaik instructed officials to double employment generation under MGNREGS to 10 lakh persondays per day in a week’s time. The goal is to provide meaningful employment to marginal workers upon their arrival from other States.

Social sector researchers opine that given the slow pace at which marginal workers were given jobs under the rural employment programme in the last few years, the Odisha government’s plan to use MGNREGS to sharply increase wage employment would appear to be an onerous task.

Although there is a mandate to provide at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment to every eligible rural household under MGNREGA, i n 2019-20, only 1,61,249 out of 68,45,899 registered rural households in Odisha had completed 100 days of work, or a meagre 2.35% of the total households.

“Total 1.7 crore workers had registered under MGNREGA programme last fiscal,” observed Basant Kumar Nayak, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Youth and Social Development. “An estimated 43.70 lakh workers had actually demanded employment. Only 37.43 lakh individuals were provided jobs. It means 14.3% of workers who had demanded jobs did not get employment,” Mr. Nayak asserted.

In 2019-20, the average number of person days of work provided per day under MGNREGS in Odisha was 3.06 lakh, an almost 35% jump from the previous year’s average of 2.27 lakh persondays. The avaerage per day persondays in 2017-18 and 2016-17 were 2.52 lakh and 2.12 lakh respectively.

Umi Daniel, a social activist working in the areas of poverty and distress migration, opined that it would not be easy to increase job creation to 10 lakh persondays per day. “We are already in the middle of summer. In a little over a month’s time, the monsoon would arrive. The MGNREGA jobs generally dry up in the rainy season. Moreover, while the whole panchayat administration will be busy in ensuring quarantine for returnees, intensifying MGNREGA implementation may not happen,” he asserted.

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His suggestion was that the State government ought to consider postponing the migrants’ return. “It is not too late. The government can still make efforts to convince migrant workers to stick to their present jobs and stay back where they are,” said Mr. Daniel.

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