With no COVID-19 case being reported from beneficiaries or officials of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in the last month, the State government expects the turnout of beneficiaries at work sites to touch the average figure of 12 lakh shortly.
On Friday, the turnout was 10.1 lakh, which was about 1.5 lakh short of the State-wide average for May 2019.
In 10 of the 24 districts, where 100% of the workforce is allowed, the rate of attendance was higher now than a year ago. Tiruvarur registered 187% more than its average figure of workers for May 2019. It was followed by Tirunelveli-Tenkasi with 159% and Madurai with 156%. This time, the undivided Villupuram district (including Kallakurichi) saw almost four times the number of beneficiaries it recorded last May.
Other districts with a higher rate of turnout this year, vis a vis last year, were Nagapattinam and Thanjavur in the central region; Ramanthapuram and Sivaganga in the south and Tiruppur and Namakkal in the west. In 12 other districts, the government has allowed only 50% of the registered beneficiaries to work at a time.
Recalling that at the time of resuming scheme work on April 27, the turnout was around 65,000, an official in the Rural Development Directorate said that the figure had gradually gone up.
Pointing out that the average rate of wage payment was 200 (against the years rate of wage of 256), the official said that assuming 10 lakh beneficiaries worked for six days, they would get 120 crore.
Ordinarily, 60%-70% of the money paid gets circulated in the form of consumption locally. The rural economy will get revived in a big way, the official added.
G. Palanithurai, an expert in matters concerning village panchayats, said what was noteworthy about Tamil Nadu was that women constituted a major section of the beneficiaries of MGNREGS. The money paid to them was invariably spent meaningfully for their families, he said.
Even if there was a delay in payment, the beneficiaries know that it is only a matter of time that they would get the money. Besides, their creditworthiness also would go up.
However, Kalimuthu of Thangalachery village panchayat in Thirumangalam panchayat union in Madurai district, who has been running a voluntary body for seven years, focussing on self-reliance of villages, said that in his village, people were paid 100, on an average. Even though officials talked about adherence to physical distancing norms, there was a perception among people in his village that it could not be followed at worksites.
There was much scope for improvement in the way the MGNREGS was being implemented, he added.