LIVELIHOOD AND MGNREGA
Rural respondents failed to get work under the MGNREGA during the lockdown
- Over three-fourth respondents saw their work come to a standstill during the lockdown, particularly in Haryana, J&K-Ladakh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal
- Seven out of ten surveyed households reported a drop in total monthly household income compared to pre-lockdown months
- Poor and lower class households reported the greatest drop in household income and greatest rise in hardship during the lockdown
- Those engaged in farm labour and skilled and unskilled work reported the greatest decrease in household income
- Only one in five households availed work under MGNREGA in the lockdown
The implementation of a nationwide lockdown since March 25 hit a severe blow to the work of all sections of the society as most economic activities came to a standstill. With no work and no wages, poor families suffered the maximum brunt.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), 2005 is meant to support rural families in such distressing times. The Union government also made announcements around using MGNREGA to provide work and income support to the needy families during the lockdown. And these works were excluded from the lockdown, but had to strictly follow physical distancing norms.
In a first-of-its-kind national survey, Gaon Connection interviewed rural residents, including daily wage labourers, to understand the impact of COVID-19 lockdown on their lives and livelihoods in rural India. This survey, conducted across 179 districts in 23 states of the country, has thrown up some important findings.
The lockdown’s impact on people’s work and jobs in rural India seems quite severe. Forty four per cent of the interviewees, who were all main earners of their respective households, said that their work was at a complete standstill during the lockdown and about 34 per cent said that it was at a standstill to a large extent. This means that over three-fourths of all respondents saw their work being affected in a major way due to the lockdown.
If we add the 15 percent who said their work was somewhat at a standstill during the lockdown to the overall figure of affected, then their proportion goes above 90 per cent. Thus, overall nine in ten respondents claimed their work suffered in some way or the other during the lockdown.
The worst affected states in terms of people’s work severely affected were Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal. Over half the main earners interviewed in the rural areas of these states reported their work got ‘very severely affected’ during the lockdown.
Over two-third (71 per cent) respondents (main earners of their respective households) who took part in the survey reported a drop in the monthly household income during the lockdown months compared to pre-lockdown.
Although the MGNREGA was supposed to support the rural families in distress, our survey found only 20 per cent families got work under MGNREGA during the lockdown. Households in Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan reported having availed of MGNREGA work the most.
The employment situation seems to be quite dire in rural India. Thirty seven per cent respondents said unemployment in their village was ‘very serious’ and 40 per cent described it as being ‘quite serious’. Overall, three-fourth interviewees reported the unemployment situation in their area as being serious.