NEW DELHI: A Parliamentary panel recently strutinized and recommended the government to increase the number of working days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) from 100 to 150 per financial year.
DMK MP Kanimozhi who heads the commision succussfully submitted its report on MGNREGA in Parliament and directed the Rural Development Department to look into the need for expansion. The proposal comes amid longstanding public demands to expand programs targeted at rural employment.
This report highlights the need for a practical approach to assessing the feasibility of increasing guaranteed working days. In addition the report further reflects the Rural Development Ministry’s revised budget of Rs 1,10,000 crore for the financial year 2023-24 and thereby approved budget for the current fiscal comes to Rs 86,000 crore which reflects the possible constraints that needs to be met for the proposed increase in workdays.
The commission highlights the increasing population and employment under MGNREGA since its inception in 2006 as reasons for demanding more employment days. In addition, it proposes to integrate labor-intensive schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana Gramin (PMAY-G) and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) to optimize labor utilization and project costs.
While supporting calls for extended working days, activists warn that adequate funding is paramount. The total expenditure on MGNREGA has exceeded Rs 100,000 crore annually in the last three financial years, reflecting the huge financial commitment required to sustain and expand the scheme.
A senior researcher at LibTech India Chakradhar Budhha, highlights the importance of increasing fiscal allocation, citing recommendations from World Bank economists that 1.6 per cent of GDP should be allocated to MGNREGA. He also emphasizes the importance of increasing operating costs to better support increased workdays.
The Commission concludes its report by drawing attention to the inadequacy of the current budget allocation for MGNREGA. This proposal highlights the challenges faced by the Modi government in balancing rural job generation with fiscal constraints, and points to a wider policy debate on the future trajectory of the flagship Rural Employment Policy.