Two civil society organisations on Thursday expressed concern over the decline in the budget allocation for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme and said the problem of delayed wage payment to poor labourers and denial of work would be aggravated.
The Centre has allocated Rs 73,000 crore for the MGNREGA for 2022-23, which is much less than the Rs 98,000 crore allocated in the revised budget for 2021-22. Already the scheme has a pending liability of over Rs 18,000 crore, which leaves the available budget at Rs 54,000 crore.
The NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (NSM) and the People’s Actions for Employment Guarantee (PAEG) said that since 2015-16, the annual budget allocation had never been sufficient to provide work to all those seeking employment under the programme. Every year about 80 to 90 per cent of the budget gets exhausted within the first six months, they pointed out. As a result, active job card-holding families do not get work despite demanding work.
The scheme provides up to 100 days of work per rural household per year. The worker has to be provided a job within 15 days of demanding work. They are to be paid wages within 15 days of completion of a phase of work.
Wage payments to the tune of Rs 3,273 crore and involving around two crore wage transactions had been delayed in 2021-22. Almost 11 per cent of 10 crore households that demanded work were not provided employment.
“The available fund is even less for 2022-23. The problem of denial of work and delayed wage payment will be aggravated. Poor workers who depend on the MGNREGA for their survival will suffer,” said Ashish Ranjan, an activist associated with the NSM.
The NSM had in a pre-budget statement demanded allocation of Rs 3.62 lakh crore for the MGNREGA to ensure maximum employment generation for all active job card-holding families.