More than two million households took advantage of MNREGS in September, indicating that demand for work under the Rural Employment Guarantee program remains high even months after the Center and states lifted most Covid restrictions.

Data available on the MNREGS portal shows that 2.07 crore of households took advantage of the program in September – which was 3.85% more than for the same month in 2020 (after the first wave and the most severe restrictions of pandemic), and up to 72.30% more than in September 2019, the last non-Covid year.

In fact, the monthly figure of households benefiting from MNREGS has been hovering above two crores since December of last year. In the past 18 months, or since the start of the pandemic, the numbers have only been below the two crore mark three times – in April 2020 (1.10 crore), October 2020 (1.99 crore) and November 2020 (1.84 crore). In the pre-Covid era, the number of households benefiting from MNREGS would only exceed two crores during the months of May and June.

The average monthly figure of households receiving MNREGS was 2.36 crore in the first half of fiscal year 2021-2022, which is higher than the monthly average of 2.28 crore for all of 2020-2021. In 2019-2020, the figure stood at 1.56 crore.

The continued strong demand for MNREGS works is significant as Covid restrictions have been lifted on most economic activities in recent months.

In September 2021, Tamil Nadu had the largest number of households (46.54 lakh) benefiting from MNREGS, followed by West Bengal (23.47 lakh), Uttar Pradesh (19.57 lakh), Rajasthan ( 18.73 lakh) and Madhya Pradesh (14.56 lakh).

Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Manipur and the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir experienced an increase of more than 30% in the number of households benefiting from the MNREGS between September 2020 and September 2021.

Over 11 million people in total (7.5 million households) benefited from the program in fiscal year 2020-21. In the current fiscal year, 8.57 crores of individuals (6.02 crores of households) had made it through October 30.

Under the MNREGS, each rural household is entitled to at least 100 days of paid employment in a financial year. As of October 30, 13.15 Lakh households had completed a 100-day job in the current fiscal year. A total of 222.16 crore person-days were generated during this period.

Data on the MNREGS portal shows that expenditure of Rs 70,135.57 crore had been incurred until October 30 during the 2021-22 fiscal year, against an availability of Rs 71,520.69 crore. However, Rs 10,087.06 crore more is due due to the payment of salaries, material costs and administrative expenses as of October 30 of the current fiscal year leaving a net balance or shortage of Rs 8,701.94 crore .

The net balance or shortage concerns 22 states and Union territories – Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Pendjab, Gujarat , Meghalaya, Manipur, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Sikkim, Pondicherry and Lakshadweep.

In a statement released on Saturday, the Ministry of Rural Development said the government was “committed” to releasing funds for the payment of salaries and materials under the MNREGS. “The release of funds for salaries and materials is an ongoing process. There has been an increase of over 18% in the allocation of funds for the current year compared to the previous year as a budget estimate. In the current fiscal year, so far more than Rs. 63,793 crore of funds have been released for program implementation in the States / UT. Currently, funds of Rs.8921 crore are available and can cover the wage obligation equal to this current availability, ”the statement said.

“Whenever additional funds are needed, the finance ministry is asked to provide the funds. During the previous fiscal year, the Ministry of Finance allocated 50,000 crore rupees to the scheme in addition to that of BE [budget estimate]”, says the press release.

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