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In first 8 months, Punjab completes only 19% of works under NREGS

Data sourced from the Punjab Rural Development and Panchayat department revealed that this financial year (2022-23), the state has taken up 1.52 lakh works, including new and spillover of the last financial year, of which only 28,559 works (or 18.78%) could be completed till November 30.

This year, 11,000 less works were taken up compared to last fiscal. (Representational/ File)

Despite generating 218 lakh persondays, which is the sum of the total number of persons and days worked by each person, in the first eight months of this financial year, Punjab could complete only 19% of the works under the yearly target of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).

In the same period, the state has utilised Rs 853.46 crore (56.9%) of the total annual target budget of Rs 1500 crore under the scheme.

Data sourced from the Punjab Rural Development and Panchayat department revealed that this financial year (2022-23), the state has taken up 1.52 lakh works, including new and spillover of the last financial year, of which only 28,559 works (or 18.78%) could be completed till November 30. This year, 11,000 less works were taken up compared to last fiscal.

spillover of the last financial year, of which only 28,559 works (or 18.78%) could be completed till November 30. This year, 11,000 less works were taken up compared to last fiscal.

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In the last financial year (2021-2022), Punjab had completed 50,703 (31.1%) of the total 1.63 lakh works, and in 2020-21, the state could complete 35,232 (24%) works of 1.45 lakh. Similarly, in 2019-20 and 2018-19, Punjab could complete 32,708 (41%) and 24,927 (37.36%) of the total 79,000 and 66,000 works, respectively.

This year so far, Punjab has generated 218.09 lakh persondays with 65.93% of women persondays, which is the highest in the past five years. This year, there were 71.74% of SC persondays.

In 2021-22, the state generated 331.5 lakh persondays. Punjab saw 277 lakh, 256, lakh, 231 lakh and 137 Lakh persondays in 2019-20, 2018-19, 2017-18, and 2016-17, respectively. In 2020-21, when Covid hit the world, the Centre assigned a Labour Budget (LB) target of 250 lakh persondays to the department of Rural Development and sanctioned Rs 800 crore under the scheme. But the state revised the target to Rs 1500 crore and accordingly approved a target of 360 lakh persondays. Eventually, the state generated 376 personsdays. The department worked consistently and achieved 62% additional expenditure and 60% additional persondays from the previous 2019-20 financial year. This was the highest ever expenditure and personsdays in the history of the state, even though the country was in lockdown in the initial two months of the fiscal.

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Meanwhile, this year, 21.62 lakh job cards were issued of which 13.04 lakh are active job cards. The number of total workers is 33.44 lakh, including 17.13 lakh active workers. Nearly 7.36 lakh households worked of which 4,299 households completed 100 days of work.

There are 654 gram panchayats (GPs) of 13,326 GPs in the state where not a single penny was spent under the scheme this year so far.

Projects under MGNREGA have two components – labour and material – with a rider that labour must be at least 60% and material the rest. In the material component for some works listed under the scheme, the Punjab government also contributes a 25% share against the Centre’s 75%.

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This year so far, overall 71.34% of the amount has been spent on wages and 28.56% on material and the districts have their own ratio of wages and materials. Faridkot and Barnala spent 79% and 75% on wages, respectively, while Tarn Taran and Fazilka used 51% and 49% of funds on material, respectively.

A block development officer in the Doaba region said, “In some places, we need to create some infrastructure but then material is not available to us and our projects get delayed.”

Incidentally, around 13 of the 23 districts in Punjab could not utilise the funds available to them. For instance, Malerkotla, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur and Mohali could use only 55.3%, 61.2%, 62% and 64.08% of funds, respectively.

Several types of work are undertaken under NREGS, including water conservation, water harvesting, watershed management, tree plantation, irrigation works, dug-out farm ponds, renovation of traditional water bodies, land development flood control, and land development. In other categories, works such as improving the productivity of land, improving livelihood through horticulture, sericulture, farm forestry, unskilled wage components in the construction of houses, infrastructure promotion of livestock and fisheries are taken up. In the third category, common infrastructure like agriculture productivity and other works related to rural infrastructures such as rural connectivity rural sanitation, disaster preparedness and construction of buildings etc. are taken up.

When asked, Punjab Agriculture & Farmers welfare and Rural Development Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal said that in the beginning of this financial year they faced some hiccups because of the misuse of NREGS funds by the previous government. “The Centre had put a ban on the release of some of our funds and then I went to Delhi to get the pending Rs 250 crore released and then our work got delayed. Now, recently there was a problem of supply of raw material such as sand for about a month due to which some projects got delayed. But we are sure that we will complete majority of our works as we still have four more months,” he said.

First published on: 01-12-2022 at 07:38 IST
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