MNREGA: Over Rs 110 crore pending in wage arrears in Gujarat

The Indian Express | 1 week ago | 05-08-2022 | 03:35 am

MNREGA: Over Rs 110 crore pending in wage arrears in Gujarat

Wage arrears of over Rs 110 crore is pending under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) scheme as of July 27 in Gujarat, according to answers to questions raised in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha recently, even as the MNREGA website shows no Fund Transfer Orders (FTOs) being processed for the state since July 4.The website, which has updates till August 4, shows the pending wage liability as Rs 115.67 crore with 17,971 fund transfer orders (FTOs) pending processing in Gujarat. According to MNREGA MIS report on the website, for financial year 2022-’23, Gujarat has disbursed Rs 576.01 crore in wages, Rs 409.18 crore in material costs and Rs 14.33 crore in administrative costs.In questions raised before the Rajya Sabha dated August 3, seeking details of arrears and by when they would be cleared, Minister Of State, Rural Development, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, replied, “Fund release to states/UTs is a continuous process and Central Government is committed to making funds available to States/UTs… The ministry seeks additional funds… from the Ministry of Finance as and when required for meeting the demand…” This has been a consistent reply by Jyoti to several questions in the Lok Sabha on pending dues.In another reply dated July 27 to an unstarred question in the Rajya Sabha by AAP Punjab MP Sandeep Kumar Pathak, Jyoti said, “The Government is committed to providing funds to the state government… release of funds to the state governments is a continuous process… depending on the availability of funds with the states, release of counterpart funds, submission of proposals along with requisite documentation…”To an unstarred question by CPI Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam from Kerala, Jyoti stated, “The Ministry releases funds periodically in two tranches… of one or more instalments, keeping in view the ‘agreed-to’ labour budget, demand for works, opening balance, pace of utilisation of funds, pending liabilities, overall performance and subject to submission of relevant documents by the states. Also the state can make advance payments subject to recoupment after the release of funds by the Central Government.”Though the MNREGA work has not been officially suspended, registered workers in Mahisagar district of Central Gujarat, claimed that they were not given employment, and thereby wages, since July 14.A worker from the Santrampur block, working on a road project, said, “I went for work last around July 10, after which the local village employment volunteer has not contacted us… We have been told there is some indefinite strike… There has been no payment and we are waiting for work to resume.”Another worker from Dahod said that though the local construction project restarted after a few days of interruption, payment has not been received.Hemantkumar Shah, president of MNREGA Workers Association of Gujarat, said, “There has been negligible work under MNREGA since last month… Most affected are tribal districts, where the workers have not received any pay. One reason is the strike by contractual employees implementing the projects on the ground, while it is also visible that the Gujarat government does not want to implement MNREGA…”Claiming that the budget allocation in the state for MNREGA is so little, Shah added, “There is no money to even pay the registered workers if all have to be employed. The agitation by contractual workers will further affect the overall number of work days.” Contractual employees have been on strike demanding higher wages.In Gujarat, labour budget details on the MNREGA website shows that less than five per cent of the 14,215 gram panchayats in the state entered labour projection, a considerable dip from the 25 per cent gram panchayats that had entered labour projection in FY 2021-’22.In terms of work demand, cumulative persondays generated under the scheme in April, May, June and July were lower than the projected persondays, yet the state failed to make payments.However, according to Sonal Mishra, commissioner of rural development in Gujarat, “everything is in order and there is no cause of concern”. Wage is paid  from the grants released by the Centre.Denying that work has been affected due to strike by contractual employees, Mishra said, “The strike ended a while ago… even during the strike, no MNREGA work was affected in any district… as part of the outsourcing contract, the agency is responsible to provide manpower even if some are on strike.”Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inboxMinister Jyoti’s response to an unstarred question from West Bengal Rajya Sabha MP Jawhar Sircar reveals that Centre’s release of grant for the scheme to Gujarat in the first quarter of FY 2022-’23 is nearly seven per cent less than the grant that was released  same period of FY 2021-’22.An additional Rs 2.26 crore was released by the Centre for Gujarat after completion of the first quarter on June 30 this year, thus making the total of Centre’s grant so far to the state to 809.26 crore.For West Bengal, which has a humongous arrears in wages — to the tune of Rs 2,636.71 crore — the highest among all states and union territories, the Centre has stopped providing grants, revealed Jyoti’s reply to MP Sircar dated August 3, citing “non-compliance of directives of the central government”.(With inputs from Aditi Raja in Vadodara)

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