The high levels of reverse migration recorded during the COVID-19-related lockdown led to a sudden surge in demand for work through MGNREGS in States where the bulk of the migrants returned.

Sowing of kharif crops doubled this year following a massive increase in rural labour and an above average monsoon. These two factors led to levels of rural employment seen before the lockdown was imposed.

Demand for work

The graph depicts the % of districts where the no. of households which demanded MGNREGS work tripled (dark green), doubled (light green), increased significantly (yellow) or reduced (red) in FY21 compared to FY20. While the demand tripled in many districts in West Bengal, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, it reduced in many districts in Punjab, Telangana and Maharashtra.

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Sowing surge

Farmers sowed 315.63 lakh hectares (LH) of kharif crops as of June 26, 127 LH more than the area usually covered by this time. In places such as Punjab, Maharashtra and Telangana, the demand for MGNREGS work was possibly muted due to a large increase in sowing.

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Also read: Market arrivals dip, procurement delays: How COVID-19 impacted agriculture

Back with jobs

CMIE’s data on employment rate show that the rural rate has bounced back to pre-COVID levels while the urban rate is still stuttering after a decent recovery following the unlock.

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Last word

The sudden rise in sowing, especially in cotton, has to be met with an equal increase in government procurement. If not, the glut in the market will cause prices to crash and profits to dwindle.

Also, according to CMIE, though rural jobs have increased, due to excess supply of labour the wage rates will drop significantly. Thus, workers may earn less than they used to.

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