- Expenditure on the NREG has gone up from Rs 12,074 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 19,279 crore in 2007-08, and further to Rs 36,153 crore in 2008-09.
- There were 2.12 crore households demanding employment in 2006-07. The numbers rose to 3.43 crore in 2007-08 and to 4.52 crore in 2008-09.
- Total person days of employment created have shot up from 90 crore in the first year to 144 crore in the second, and 339 crore in the third.
I think the above are serious numbers and maybe they had a significant impact on the results of the just concluded General Elections. In 2004, when the NDA ran its India Shining campaign, a large part of that shine was confined to urban areas, leaving the rural folks wondering whether they really lived in such a shining India? The result of which was there for us to see...NDA lost heavily despite almost everyone on the street predicting a win for the NDA.
Fast forward to 2009 and I think we have a repeat, although the shining and the non-shining parts seem to have switched corners. It's the rural India that is really shining today. Multiple years of decent precipitation, substantial increase in MSPs, debt loan waiver and now this super cool NREGS (which in fact in my view is the second best thing to have happened to our country since the Right to Information Act!). This is because, it is a well known fact that most of the small and marginal farmers or farm labourers are hugely underpaid in India. Till the NREGS came to existence, most of such farmers workers were paid in the range of Rs.40-60 per day! Imagine, any of us living in this part of the world earning that kind of a salary and compare it with the kind of work & effort being undertaken in return? It's a joke really. However, with NREGS, the government in one shot has more than doubled the average remuneration paid to farm workers to above Rs.100 per day. Now because the government offers atleast Rs.100 per day, private employers have to offer more than that to attract workers. And they are doing exactly that; in some parts of the country, private employers are now offering Rs.120-130 per day plus food to hire contract farmers/labourers. It a significant change, and a good one!