of 10 million person-days of work everyday from June 15 onwards. The strategy paid off. The state reported a three-fold increase in the demand during May-June compared to the corresponding period last year. The success of Uttar Pradesh is clearly palpable in Siddharthnagar, among the country’s 250 most backward districts, which adjoins Nepal. Evidently, the district reports high levels of migration—estimates show that almost a quarter of the people from the district migrate to cities in search of menial jobs. Sensing a swell of returning workers following the lockdown, district magistrate Deepak Meena put in place a plan for each of the 1,110 village panchayats in the district. A list was prepared, identifying those who would demand work, their skill and what works should be undertaken. Most village panchayats listed water conservation works like digging new ponds and tanks or renovating them as a priority work. “In the four months till July, we have utilised 61.4 per cent of the labour budget for the year and created close to 6 million persondays of works by rejuvenating 1,000 ponds and 140 traditional harvesting structures,” says Pulkit Garg, chief development officer of the district. At least 64 ponds have been dug under MGNREGA on private lands.
Sanjay Sharma, in-charge of MGNREGA in Siddharthnagar district of the state, says, each of the newly dug or renovated ponds have the capacity to irrigate 30 ha. Besides, they will control floods and water logging, which are major threats to agriculture. Altogether, these bodies have added 40 million cu m to the water storage capacity of the district and will benefit 10,000 to 12,000 families.
Across the state, some 83 per cent of the 0.7 million works that the government plans to undertake this year under MGNREGA are water conservation-related works, such as micro-irrigation, renovation of traditional water bodies and rainwater harvesting structures. Rambraj, a 45-year-old resident of Bhitiya village in Siddharthnagar, is well aware of the