Union govt owes Rs 7,655 cr to states under MGNREGA scheme

This inordinate delay from the union government contradicts the true spirit of an employment guarantee where work allocation had to be demand based and payments should be on time as per the Act

Stock image (Representative Photo)
Stock image (Representative Photo)

Ashlin Mathew

There is more than Rs 7,000 cr pending from the union government to the states under the employment guarantee scheme under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). Of this, Rs 3,207.43 cr is pending for material component under the scheme and Rs 4,447.92 cr is pending as wages.

Under the wage component, the union government owes West Bengal Rs 2,744 cr until 30 November 2022. This is followed by Kerala to which the union government owes Rs 456 cr. The union government owes Tamil Nadu 210 cr, Assam Rs 196 cr, Nagaland Rs 183 cr and Jharkhand Rs 162.5 cr as wages.

This was revealed in the responses to Lok Sabha Trinamool Congress MP Mala Roy. She had asked about dues pending to the state Governments under the MGNREGA scheme.

Pointing towards the plight of workers in West Bengal, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha’s Debmalya Nandy said the centre has not released wages to West Bengal since December last year, which means the workers are unpaid for almost a year now in that state. “It is pure vendetta politics by the government due to which the workers keep suffering. Out of the Rs 4,447 cr pending in wages West Bengal's share is 2744cr according to the response by the govt in parliament. This is unacceptable.

The union government owes Karnataka Rs 540 cr the maximum amount as liabilities for material component under the scheme. This is followed by West Bengal, to whom the government owes Rs 457.06 cr, then Maharashtra (Rs 304.83 cr).

The Centre allocated Rs 73,000 cr for the rural jobs guarantee programme for 2022-23. In the financial year 2021-22, the financial allocation for the scheme was also Rs 73,000 cr, though it was later revised to Rs 98,000 cr. In the previous financial year the expenditure was to the tune of ₹1,11,170.86 cr.

The MGREGA website shows that around 62.5K cr out of the total allocation of 73K cr has been released already to states and around 70K cr has been spent so far. The government’s response shows the implication of inadequate budgeting, underscored Nandy.

The government has now slowed down the implementation to rationalise the allocation, highlighted Nandy, and added that until a supplementary allocation is made the programme won’t gain momentum at all in the last three remaining months of the financial year.

MGNREGA aims to guarantee at least 100 days of wage employment in rural India to at least one member of every household whose adult members can do unskilled manual work. The Act also states that wages shall be paid to the MGNREGA workers within 15 days from the date on which the work was done. If there is a delay in the payment, the workers are entitled to get delay compensation of 0.05% of the unpaid wages per day for the duration of the delay.

This inordinate delay from the union government contradicts the true spirit of an employment guarantee where work allocation had to be demand based and payments should be on time as per the Act.

“The government does not provide delay compensations for the payments which are pending from their end, this is completely illegal. It is important that the govt at-least provisions for Rs 1.5 lakh cr as the budgeted estimate for 2023-24 so that uninterrupted operations can be ensured,” explained Nandy.

For the current financial year 2022-23, the budget is a meagre 0.3% of GDP. The MGNREGA budget as percentage of the total government expenditure has also decreased since FY 2021-22 and stands at 1.85% for FY 2022-2, which is just about half the level in FY 2020-21 (3.65%). According to World Bank estimates, for the scheme to run robustly, the allocation must at least be 1.6% of the GDP.

MGNREGA activists believe that there is an immediate need for supplementary allocations, need for delayed compensation to be paid from the centre when it's delayed from their end and adequacy in budget allocation.

The government had recently constituted a committee headed by former Rural Development Secretary and advisor in the PMO Amarjeet Sinha to recommend structural and other reforms required in the scheme.

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