Rajasthan to restart MGNREGA works within COVID-19 restrictions

20 lakh rural families were engaged in them before projects were stopped due to pandemic

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) works and the rural development projects will restart in Rajasthan with the State government’s Rural Development Department issuing guidelines to be followed during the COVID-19 related restrictions. These works were earlier suspended when the strict lockdown started in the State on May 10.

About 20 lakh rural families were engaged in the MGNREGA works, which were halted along with other rural development projects. The rural workforce was deprived of an important source of livelihood, as the State government suspended the works in view of more than 30% of the infection cases being reported from villages.

K.K. Pathak, Secretary, Rural Development, said here on Tuesday a maximum of 10 labourers would be engaged at the work sites with the provisions for prior approval and measurement of works. “The labourers will be allotted the work as per their demand. The village development officers will verify the measurement of works written on the reverse side of muster rolls,” he said.

The MGNREGA turned out to be a major source of employment during the last year’s lockdown, when thousands of migrant workers returned to their native villages in the State. The works dedicated to the creation of rural infrastructure were carried out with the number of labourers at each site reduced from 120 to 30 to follow the COVID-19 protocol.

Activists have urged the State government to allow the MGNREGA works by implementing the provision for asset creation at the sites owned by villagers. “These works may include cattle shed construction at home and fencing and levelling of agricultural land,” Kamal Tak of the Suchna Evum Rozgar Adhikar Abhiyan said.

Mr. Tak said the works could be permitted for a fortnight and payment of wages made to the rural families to help them tide through the pandemic. The formalities regarding measurement of work, marking of attendance and counting of working hours could be done later, he said.

The State government has also approved a proposal to reduce the tasks of labourers engaged for the MGNREGA works following a time-motion study on their work efficiency during the financial year 2021-22. The tasks for workers in the rural development activities were earlier reduced by 30% during the pandemic.

The workers have been allowed in factories and at construction sites in the towns during the lockdown to prevent their migration. However, the unorganised labourers were finding it difficult to get the work because of their gathering points being closed and most of the construction works having been temporarily stopped.

The Krantikari Nirman Mazdoor Sangathan (KNMS), a labour union of construction workers, has demanded the supply of foodgrains and essential items and payment of ₹7,500 as unemployment allowance to the labourers during the restrictions. KNMS convenor Ritansh Azad said it was the State government’s responsibility to ensure food security of the workers and their families.

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