39% of MGNREGA job card holders didn’t get a single day of work in 2020-21, says study

39% of MGNREGA job card holders didn’t get a single day of work in 2020-21, says study
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Around 39% of the job-card holders of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) did not find a single day of work in 2020-21, reveals a study.

The study, released today, was conducted by Azim Premji University and National Consortium of Civil Society Organisations on NREGA and Collaborative Research and Dissemination (CORD).

The objective of MGNREGA is to provide at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural household — whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

‘Made marked difference during the pandemic’

The study also says that only 36% of the households who worked under this scheme received their wages in 15 days.

It also highlights that despite several shortcomings, MGNREGA made a marked difference during the pandemic, protecting the most vulnerable households from significant loss of income.


The scheme was able to compensate between 20-80% of income loss, the report said.

“Our study shows how much the workers value the need and utility of MGNREGA. More than 8 out of 10 households recommended that MGNREGA should provide 100 days of employment per person per year,” said Rajendran Narayanan, co-author of the study and faculty member at Azim Premji University.

The study was conducted among 2,000 households in 2020-21 across eight blocks in four states — Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

About 63% of the households in the study said that ‘lack of adequate works being sanctioned/opened’ was the major reason behind not getting work.

“Massive expansion of the programme is needed to deal with high work demand. Increase the number of administrative personnel by at least doubling the field functionaries. This is also likely to reduce corruption,” the report suggested.

Need 3x the budget

As per the MGNREGA Management Information System (MIS), the total amount spent on labour in the surveyed blocks in the Covid year (FY 2020-21) was ₹152.68 crore.

However, according to the report, to fulfill the true demand for work in these blocks, the allocated labour budget should have been ₹474.27 crore, which is more than three times the amount actually spent on wages.

“We also find a massive extent of underfunding. A conservative estimate yields that the allocations in the surveyed blocks should have been three times the amount that was actually allocated in the year after lockdown to fulfill the true extent of work demand,” Narayanan added.

The MGNREGA earnings were able to compensate between 20-100% of income lost from other sources — for households who had not worked in the pre-Covid year — but did find work during the Covid year.

“Covid pandemic, lockdown created unprecedented distress and MGNREGA, as expected, rose to the need and provided work for many more villages and many more households than in the preceding years. MGNREGA’s role for reducing vulnerability has been reemphasized and continues to be of vital importance in post-pandemic times,” said Ashwini Kulkarni of the NREGA Consortium.

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