New Delhi: With less than two weeks left in the current fiscal, about Rs 1,100 crore by way of wages of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) labourers is still due at different levels of the payment chain, a civil society organisation has alleged.
The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has alleged that the government has allocated insufficient funds and that is the reason for the delay in meeting the demand for wage payments of NREGA workers. Debmalya of NREGA Sangharsh Morcha told The Sunday Guardian: “Continued wage payment delay has pushed NERGA towards peril. As per the data reviewed by NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, the government still needs Rs 2,000 crore for clearing this year’s due wage payments.”
“The country is set to hold Lok Sabha polls from next month, but the delay in wage payments of NREGA workers is not on the agenda of any political party,” Debmalya said.
However, the government’s data put the delay in wage payments at approximately Rs 800 crore and claims that wages are pending due to the lack of banks’ response). However, civil society organisations claim that it is the government’s apathy that has resulted in delay in payment of wages.
Contrary to the government’s claim, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has said that the government is just washing its hand off from taking responsibility. The wage delay problem is evident because of the deficit in NREGA budget.
“The government’s own data that is available on the MGNREGA portal accepts that wages of NREGA labourers to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore is pending at the Fund Transfer Order (FTO) level and an additional Rs 1,826 crore is pending as the wage liability of the previous fiscal,” Debmalya claimed.
“The gradual decrease in the NREGA budget has created the problem of wage delay and there is a need of at least Rs 88,000 crore to meet the wage payment needs and smooth functioning of NREGA. Despite knowing the fact that the Central government has to clear Rs 12,400 crore as pending wages, the Ministry of Finance allocated Rs 1,084 crore less budget for this year from the last fiscal,” Debmalya said. This year, the budget for NERGA has been kept at a little over Rs 60,000 crore. Not only payment of wages, the shortage of staff has also caused great difficulty in the smooth functioning of NREGA. As per the Rural Development Ministry’s (RDM) 2017-18 report, MGNREGA has a shortage of 25% staff.
Meanwhile, the Centre has asked five states—Andhra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharshstra—to pay due wages before April 2019. The Sunday Guardian tried to contact both the directors of MGNREGA, namely Dharmvir Jha and Ragvendra Pratap Singh, to get their response on the pendency of wages, but response from the duo is still awaited. This reporter also contacted Narendra Singh Tomar, Union minister of Rural Development, for clarification on the dues of NREGA wage payments through mail, but reply is yet to come.