India’s flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme provided more days of work in 2020-’21 than in any year since the programme began in 2008. But states are falling short of funds to pay workers.

In three charts, we take a quick look at the current status of the programme:

In 2020-’21, the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, when disease and related lockdowns decimated businesses and the economy, the programme provided 47% more person-days of work, as compared to 2019-’20.

About 230 crore person-days of work were generated up to November 10, which is 86% of the employment provided by the scheme in the financial year 2019-’20.

In the 2020-’21 Budget, the central government allocated Rs 61,500 crore for the programme, 13% less than the revised estimate for the previous year. This amount fell short. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced additional funds of Rs 40,000 crore for the scheme in May 2020, which led to a record-breaking 389 crore days of employment generated under the scheme in 2020-’21.

The government allocated no additional funds for the scheme after the second wave of Covid-19. The MGNREGS budget for 2021-’22 is only 1.8% more than the spending in 2019-’20. In real terms, the allocations are less than that for 2015-’16, the research group People’s Action for Employment Guarantee…

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