Only 20% Surveyed Found Jobs Under MGNREGA During Lockdown: Gaon Connection

Gujarat reported the least amount of work under MGNREGA during the lockdown, according to a Gaon Connection survey.

A woman sits listening as other villagers hold up their job cards for the rural jobs program, known as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) which mandates 100 days of wages per year to rural households. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)
A woman sits listening as other villagers hold up their job cards for the rural jobs program, known as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) which mandates 100 days of wages per year to rural households. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

Only a fifth of the households surveyed by Gaon Connection saw a family member find employment under India's flagship rural jobs guarantee programme at a time the coronavirus pandemic froze economic activity.

Households in Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan availed most work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, while those in Gujarat reported the least jobs under the scheme, said the The Rural Report survey—one of the first on the impact of the unprecedented lockdown.

Rural media platform Gaon Connection spoke to over 25,300 respondents in 179 districts across 20 states and three union territories. A total of 963 supplementary interviews with migrants who traveled back to their hometowns have also been included.

India had confined its over 130 crore citizens to their homes for more than two months to contain the pandemic, before it started easing the lockdown curbs. That stalled all activities, barring the supply of essential goods and services, pushing the economy toward its first annual contraction in more than 40 years. The lockdown impacted migrant workers the most as jobs and income dried up overnight, leaving them stranded in the cities where they worked. That forced many to start a desperate journey, first on foot and later in trains, back to their native places.

In May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a Rs 20-lakh-crore pandemic rescue package to revive the economy. That included an additional Rs 40,000-crore allocation toward employing more workers under the rural employment guarantee scheme, over and above 2020-21 budget allocation of Rs 61,500 crore.

According to Gaon Connections’s survey, the states under by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have not performed as well as those led by the Congress. “In fact, of the three purely Congress-ruled states where the survey was conducted, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Punjab—Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh stood out as a very high proportion of households reported having done MNREGA work during the lockdown,” the survey said. “In Chhattisgarh, the percentage was even higher than that of Rajasthan at 70%.”

In Gujarat, only 2% of the households surveyed reported that they had benefited from or availed of MGNREGA work.

But some BJP-led states, such as Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, were exceptions.

According to data available on MGNREGA website, work in terms of ‘person days’ generated between April 1 to August 10 of 2020 stood at 158.64 crore compared with 115.92 crore recorded between April and July 2019. There, however, is also a demand and supply mismatch in the scheme’s job market. In June alone, while 4.1 crore households were in need of jobs under the scheme, work was supplied to only 2.8 crore.

The lack of adequate opportunities potentially led to more hardships at a time the lockdown left millions jobless. Nearly 45% of the respondents—all main earners of their households—said their work came to a complete standstill during the lockdown, and about 34% said it was at a near-halt. Only 5% said the lockdown did not affect their jobs at all.

States such as Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal fared worst in terms of people's work getting affected. Over half of the main earners who were interviewed in the rural areas of these states reported their work having got "very severely" impacted during the lockdown. Rajasthan, Kerala and Punjab have been the least badly-hit states.

Over two-thirds of all respondents reported a drop in their monthly household income during the lockdown. About 77% of people living in red zone districts—that saw a relatively more stringent lockdown than other parts—witnessed a drop in income.

As widely estimated, the survey found that the impact was worse on poor and lower class households. It was designed and data analysed by New Delhi-based Centre for Study of Developing Societies (Lokniti-CSDS).

If India’s Migrant Workers Don’t Return, It Spells Trouble For These Sectors

Key Takeaways

  • Over 68% rural Indians faced “high” to “very high” monetary difficulty during the lockdown.
  • About 23% rural Indians borrowed money during the lockdown, 8% sold a valuable possession (phone, watch etc), 7% mortgaged jewellery, and 5% sold or mortgaged land.
  • 78% respondents saw their work come to a “complete standstill” or “a standstill to a large extent” during the lockdown.
  • Work shut down completely for 60% skilled workers and 64% manual labourers
  • Only 20% respondents said they got work under MGNREGA in the lockdown.
  • 23% migrant workers returned home walking during the lockdown. Over 33% migrant workers said they want to go back to the cities to work.
  • 42% households with pregnant women said these women did not get pregnancy check-ups and vaccination during the lockdown.
  • 56% dairy and poultry farmers said they faced difficulty in taking their produce to buyers; 35% said they did not get the right price for their produce.
  • More than half the farmers managed to harvest their crops in time during the lockdown, but only one fourth could sell them on time.
  • 71% ration card-owning households said they received wheat or rice from the government during the lockdown.
  • Of the 17% citizens who do not own ration cards, only 27% said they received wheat or rice from the government.
  • 71% surveyed households reported a drop in total monthly household income during the lockdown months.
  • The poor were the hardest hit -- 75% poor families and 74% lower class households suffered a fall in income during the lockdown.
  • 38% of rural households reported having gone without necessary medicine or medical treatment often or sometimes during the lockdown.