Under the World’s biggest rural job scheme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), muster rolls, a form of attendance register signed by workers, increased by an enormous 44 percent in the blocks that were affected by drought. Thus, the actual work done under MGNREGS also increased significantly in these blocks. This increase was more than double the increase in blocks that were unaffected by drought.
Tabling the Economic Survey 2018-19 in the Parliament today, Union Minister for Finance, Nirmala Sitharaman said, muster rolls increased by 19 percent in the blocks that were not affected by drought. There was 20 percent increase in the supply of work in the blocks that are affected by drought.
The minister said, though the MGNREGS was made effective from February 2006, the streamlining of the programme occurred in 2015 when the government harnessed the benefits of technology. This, inter alia, included the implementation of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and linking with Aadhaar Linked Payments (ALP). It leveraged the Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile (JAM) trinity to credit wages directly into MGNREGS workers’ bank accounts, thereby reducing scope for delays in payment.
The Survey points out that National electronic Fund Management System (NeFMS ) is implemented in 24 states and one union territory wherein payment of wages is being credited directly to the bank/ post office accounts of MGNREGS workers by the Central government. This initiated the implementation of the DBT in the scheme. As a result of this initiative, the e-payment under MGNREGS has increased from 77.34 percent in FY 2014-15 to 99 percent in FY 2018-19.
In 2015, the Government introduced Aadhaar Linked Payments (ALP) in MGNREGS in 300 districts that had a high banking penetration. Remaining districts were covered under ALP in 2016. Conceptually, ALP could speed up the wage payment cycle in the following two ways.
Out of the 11.61 crore active works under MGNREGS, Aadhaar numbers of 10.16 crore workers (87. 51 percent) have been collected and seeded. Almost 55.05 percent of all payments under MGNREGS are through Aadhaar Based Payment System (ABPS) , the number of beneficiaries and the fund transferred under DBT under the scheme has jumped manifold from 2015-16 to 2018-19.
Muster rolls have shown a significant increase after implementation of DBT indicating that more people are reporting for work. The total person days and total person days of vulnerable sections — women, SCs and STs — is also higher in the post DBT years as compared to the pre-DBT years indicating that employment generated is higher post implementation of DBT. It is also heartening to note that more than 90 percent of the person days benefit the vulnerable sections.
The Survey states that to further increase the effectiveness of the scheme, the definition of ‘works’ under the scheme should be regularly reviewed and amended in the light of the requirements. Inclusion of de-silting of canals and water bodies in the Water Conservation Mission would enhance their storage capacity and mitigate the frequency of floods. Similarly, to enhance livelihoods for households can be reinforced by enabling them to acquire suitable skills, which in turn will help them increase incomes and provide horizontal and vertical mobility to them.
The convergence of MGNREGS with Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) and involvement with women self-help-groups (SHG) needs to be strengthened so that supply for skilled wage labour increases. The focus needs to be on the diversification of the livelihoods with multiple sources of income for them to come out of poverty.
The programme was initiated to ameliorate rural distress by providing at least 100 days of manual labour at minimum wages to anyone who seeks employment under the programme. Creation of productive assets for prescribed quality and durability, social inclusion, gender, parity, social security and equitable growth form the founding pillars of the programme.