Assam, the gateway to Northeast India, is endowed with abundant fertile land, natural and mineral resources. The state with a total geographical area of 78,438 sq km is home to around 85% rural population.
But the state is having comparatively high unemployment particularly unemployment in rural areas. High unemployment and low income of the people in the rural areas results in low purchasing power of the rural people, ultimately affecting their quality of life.
To achieve growth with equity and social justice, the Central Government has been implementing various employment programmes.
One is self-employment programme viz. Rural Self Employment Training Institutes (RSETIs), an initiative of the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) to have dedicated infrastructure in each district of the country to impart training and skill upgradation of rural youth geared towards entrepreneurship development.
RSETIs are managed by banks with active cooperation from the Government of India and State Governments. And another is wage employment scheme known as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), as field level implementation it is known as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is the Rural Employment Guarantee scheme of Government of India which was passed in the Parliament in 2005.
In Assam, MGNREGA was introduced in 2005-06 in seven districts in the first phase. It was extended to six more districts in the second phase i.e. in 2008-09 and since 2009-10 the rest of the districts were covered under the Act.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) aims at enhancing the livelihood security of the people in rural areas by guaranteeing hundred days of wage employment in a financial year, to a rural household whose members volunteer to do unskilled manual work and for this each family has to register by getting ‘Job Card’.
As per latest information (May 17, 2021), the progress of MGNREGA in India and Assam collected from the http://mnregaweb4.nic.in/netnrega is presented here so that the readers are academically benefited. In India, MGNREGA is in implementation in 714 rural districts of the country spread over 7,144 development blocks.
Total number of Gram Panchayats covered was 2,69117.
In case of job card, which is sine qua non for getting wage employment, data reveals the total number of Job Cards issued was 15.1 crore (till 17 May 2021) and altogether 29.21 crore workers worked across the country.
In case of Assam, the MGNREGS has been implemented in all the 32 districts, 239 blocks and 2672 Gram Panchayats (GPs). Altogether 58.55 lakh job cards were issued in the state and 102.58 lakh workers worked.
Average days of employment provided per household in 2020-21 was 36.35 in Assam against the all India average of 51.52. In this context, I wish to mention that in Assam the average days of employment provided per household in earlier years was hovering around 30 percent against the all India average of 50 (number of days).
So, by conducting research at the field level the actual reason for low average days in Assam may be found out. Average wage rate is an important indicator for the earning of a household. In India average wage rate was Rs 200.71 and in Assam the same was Rs 212.92 in 2020-21 indicating Assam pays little more than all India.
(Dr Shankar Chatterjee is a former professor & Head (CPME), NIRD & PR, Hyderabad)