Skip to main content

Modi govt 'assaults' on rural workers' rights, moves towards 'killing' NREGA programme

Counterview Desk 

Advocacy groups Peoples' Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG) and NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (NSM) have said that considering the estimated pending liabilities of this current year, only Rs 50,600 crore will be remaining for expenditure for implementing the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). Consequently, they note, only 16.64 days of work per active household can be generated for FY 23-24.
“If we consider all 16 crore registered households (HHs), the days will further decrease to just 10 days. Additionally, the allocation for FY 2023-24 as a percentage of the GDP is around 0.198% which is the lowest ever in the history of NREGA. This unjust allocation by the Modi government is an assault on rights of rural workers and is a step towards killing the programme”, they said in a statement.
“NREGA workers and their supporters from across the country will gather in Delhi to protest for 100 days starting from February 6 under the banner of NREGA Sangharsh Morcha.”, they warned.


The allocation for NREGA announced in the budget for FY 2023-24 is a travesty and is an assault on the peoples’ right to work as mandated under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. NREGA is a demand driven law and demand for work must be satisfied. The unprecedented budget cut will lead to (a) massive delays in wage payments, (b) suppression of work demand, and (c) lack of quality assets getting created. Instead of adequately funding the programme, the Union government has repeatedly resorted to needless technical tinkering. The National Mobile Monitoring System (NMMS) application for capturing workers’ attendance, mandated in the current FY, is one such anti-worker intervention.
According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2020-21, the overall rural unemployment in India is 6.48%. As per World Bank data, women’s labour force participation in India has declined and four out of five women were not in the labour force in 2021. 
Stagnation of rural wages is another key concern. Between 2014 and 2021, increase in real rural wages has been sluggish with an increase of just Rs. 29. These statistics clearly indicate the distress being faced by the unemployed, particularly the informal sector. Low levels of employment and low wages also lead to low consumption which in turn adversely impacts economic growth by reducing bottom-up aggregate demand.
In spite of the programme functioning at half its capacity (average number of days worked per household have only been between 40 and 50 days over the past 5 years3), it has had far-reaching impacts. 
A recent study showed that 20-60% of households in Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra felt that NREGA contributed to overall development of the village and not having to migrate was frequently mentioned as the positive aspect of the programme. 
As the most resounding referendum for NREGA, more than 8 out 10 job card holders in the surveyed blocks said that they want NREGA to have 100 days of individual entitlement instead of 100 days of household entitlement. 
NREGA has clearly shown its relevance in this context, particularly through the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. Research (see: Desai, Vashihstha, and Joshi 2015) has also shown that assets created under NREGA can be ecologically beneficial to the local community and geography. 
Throughout the last decade including the pandemic, women’s persondays in NREGA continued to be more than half of the total persondays generated. FY 2022-23 also saw women’s contribution to total persondays at 57%, one of the highest ever (Source: NREGA MIS ‘At a Glance’, accessed 2 February, 2023).
Instead of building on the tentative gains made over the past two years, the Union government, through the budget cut announced yesterday, makes the social security of 10.02 crore active workers more precarious than before.
The budgetary allocation for FY 2023-24 has been reduced to Rs. 60,00 crore, despite revised estimates for the current financial year coming in at Rs 89,400 crore. In our pre-budget note we recommended that Rs.2.72 lakh crore will be needed to provide legally guaranteed 100 days of work for at least all those who worked in the current FY.
This amounts only to around 1% of the GDP and is in fact a conservative estimate that considers only households that were employed this (a mere 56.56% of the total active job cards as on January 24, 2023) at the estimated minimum wage rate. Fig. 1 shows NREGA allocation as a percentage of GDP over the years.
World Bank recommended that at least 1.7 per cent of the GDP must be allocated for the programme (see: Rinku Murgai and Martin Ravallion, ‘Employment Guarantee in Rural India: What Would It Cost and How Much Would It Reduce Poverty?’. Economic and Political Weekly 40, no. 31, 2005, pp. 3450–55). 
On the contrary, the allocation for FY 2023-24 as a percentage of the GDP (the nominal GDP for BE 2023-24 has been projected at 3,01,75,065 crores) is around 0.198% which is the lowest ever in the history of NREGA (since 2008, when NREGA was extended to the whole country). 
As of now 8.1 crore workers from 5.7 crore households have worked in NREGA this FY despite frequent interruptions in implementation due to long delays in fund release from the Centre. The budget estimate for FY 23-24 is even lower if arrears are deducted.
Considering the estimated data (see figure below) NREGA budget allocation as a percentage of GDP pending liabilities of this current year, only Rs. 50,600 crores will be remaining for (Annexure_PostBudget_FY23-24). Consequently, only 16.64 days of work per active household (considering 10.02 crore active job card holders as per NREGA NIC report) can be generated for FY 23-24. 
If we consider all 16 crore registered HHs, the days will further decrease to just 10 days. Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Odisha, amongst other political leaders is also dismayed at the budget cut. This unjust allocation by the Modi government is an assault on rights of rural workers and is a step towards killing the programme. 
The cutting down of NREGA’s budget allocation must also be recognized relative to the increase in the budgetary outlay of PMAY and Jal Jeevan Mission. This is instructive of the Government’s intent to weaken legislations that empower workers, and instead promote schemes that leave citizens to the mercy of yearly allocations and targets.
NREGA Sangharsh Morcha and Peoples' Action for Employment Guarantee express our deep disappointment at this grossly inadequate allocation for NREGA. The current regime continues to shrink workers’ rights in form of delayed wage payments, excessive digitisation and centralisation of the programme, as well as changes introduced with no worker-consultation. 
In response, NREGA workers around the country hit the road on NREGA Diwas (February 2) to protest against budget cuts. To put an end to the systematic undermining of the Act and to expose the central government’s lack of commitment to workers rights’, hundreds of NREGA workers and their supporters from across the country will gather in Delhi to protest for 100 days starting from 6th February under the banner of NREGA Sangharsh Morcha.



'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site The article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.