Govt generates 10 lakh man-days through state schemes: CM
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said the state government has generated 10 lakh man-days through state government schemes after the Centre froze funds under the 100 days job scheme citing anomalies.
“The Centre has blocked Bengal economically purely because of political reasons. They have stopped releasing funds under the 100 days job scheme and Awas Yojana scheme.… But we have generated 10 lakh man-days on our own so far,” Mamata said during a programme to distribute student credit cards at the Netaji Indoor Stadium here on Thursday.
Sources said the development was significant as generating jobs in rural areas was important ahead of next year’s rural polls.
“If the state can generate jobs even if without the Centre releasing funds under the MGNREGA, the ruling party will be much ahead of the BJP here as it can accuse the BJP-led Centre of depriving people of the state,” said a senior government official.
The state has dues of Rs 6,500 crore under the MGNREGA, which the Centre is yet to release on grounds that the state government did not take prior approval while generating additional 3 crore man-days between December 2021 and March 2022 after the approved labour budget of Rs 27 crore had exhausted.
The Centre did not approve the labour budget for 2022-23 although three months in the ongoing financial year have gone by. For the state to get the money on hold and approval of the labour budget, the Centre has asked the Bengal government to recover funds “misappropriated” while carrying out projects under the scheme over the past two years.
“But the state government cannot sit idle as generating jobs in rural areas is important in Bengal owing to lack of employment opportunities in the remote corners of the state. This is why the chief minister had asked departments like panchayat, PWD, irrigation and PHE to engage job card holders in their ongoing schemes. Apparently, the strategy is working as 10 lakh man-days have already been generated,” said an official.
Officials said efforts were on to generate more jobs in rural areas in the next few months through state government schemes.
“The state has decided to spend more than Rs 2,600 crore with funds released by the 15th finance commission to rural bodies, which was lying unused for the past two years. Construction of rural roads will generate more jobs in the rural areas,” said a senior government official.
The state government is putting stress on generating jobs in the rural areas as early as possible because demand for work in those places reaches its peak by the end of August.
“People are now busy in paddy fields during the kharif (monsoon) season. The sowing of paddy will be over by mid-August and after that demand for jobs will be at its peak. This is the reason why rural bodies have been asked to float tenders for rural roads by the end of July,” said a source.
Some officials, however, pointed out that generating jobs for all job card holders was not an easy task without the funds of the central government.
“We could generate only about 10 lakh jobs without central funds. In the previous years, we had created more than 3 crore jobs by this time. The state has to ensure that the Centre releases funds under the MGNREGA at the earliest,” said a bureaucrat.
Sources in the panchayat department said the state was working on sending appropriate replies to posers raised by the Centre. “It is expected that suitable replies will be sent soon and the issue resolved,” said a source.