Staff crunch, delay in payments and fund shortage are the key reasons behind the dismal picture.
Staff crunch, unreasonable delays in payments and official budget shortage seem to be contributing to the slow death of the demand driven Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
According to the Ministry of Rural Development’s 2017-18 report, MNAREGA has a shortage of 25% staff.
There is no governing body chairman in West Bengal and secretary Rural Development Department (RDD) is holding the post of chairman for the governing bodies of Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand.
The social audit body that is mandatory for the disbursement of wages has director’s post vacant in Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), West Bengal, UP, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Nagaland.
In Haryana, the situation is worse as the social audit body is not even registered in the state, as per the report.
The delay in payment of wages is one of the major problems highlighted in the ministry’s report. As per the report, there are 25-39 % delays in payment of wages.
Bihar has about 39% wage payments due. With 36% wages due, Uttar Pradesh appeared second in the list of the states with the highest percentage of delay in payment of wages, followed by the Punjab, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
The ministry’s report says that in fiscal year 2017-18, states have an outstanding of Rs 67,956 crore towards payment of wages. The break-up is as follows: Uttar Pradesh: Rs 11,239 crore; North East states: Rs 9,695 crore; West Bengal: Rs 6,604 crore; Bihar: Rs 5,572 crore; Karnataka: Rs 4,550 crore; Madhya Pradesh: Rs 4,327 crore; Andhra Pradesh: Rs 4,294 crores; Maharashtra: Rs 4,152 crore; Rajasthan: Rs 2,549 crore; Telangana: Rs 2,454 crore ; others: Rs 1,522 crore.
However, independent research and organisations linked to the functioning of MNAREGA disapprove of the government reports and projects 68% delay in the payment of wages.
A research report — Analysis of Payment Delays and Delay Compensation in NREGA Findings across Ten States for Financial Year 2017-18 — carried out at the Azim Premji University by three independent scholars, Rajendran Narayanan, Sakina Dhorajiwala, and Rajesh Golani, has revealed almost 68% delay in MNREGA payments.
“In the financial year FY 16-17, we found in our sample that merely 21% wages were paid in the stipulated 15-day period. This year, some wage payments are pending for over 200 days. In such a scenario, it is not only the worker (whose wages are delayed) who is impacted, but also other workers in the village who lose faith in the programme. In certain villages, where there are cases of large delays, workers are dissuaded to demand work through MGNREGA,” the research report cited above reads.
The reason for the government data showing only 39% delay in payments is that the government counts delay in payments before signing the Funds Transfer Order (FTO). On the other hand, individual research counts the delay in wage payments after FTO till the time wage comes in the hand of labourers.
“The Department of Expenditure (Ministry of Finance) took cognizance of our research in August 2017. They issued an office memorandum which acknowledged that the delays are calculated only until the Funds Transfer Order (FTO) is generated at the block/panchayat level. With this paper, we highlighted that the government’s definition of what constitutes ‘delay’ in payment of wages is flawed,” the same research finding cited above reads.
“Contrary to the government’s claims of almost 85% wage payments on time (within 15 days of completion of work week), our large sample analysis indicates that only 32% of the wage payments have been made on time,” the same research finding cited above reads.
Ankita, convener of MNREGA Sangharsh Morcha, said “The country’s largest employment guarantee programme doesn’t have enough employees for its smooth operation. The lack of necessary skills to operate the technology-based systems makes the processes more cumbersome.”