Despite generating 93 lakh person-days in the first quarter of this financial year, the state has utilised only 21 per cent of the yearly target spend so far under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) works for Financial Year 2020-21. As majority of the districts of the state are behind their respective targets, the reasons being cited by officials are slow procurement or non-availability of the material required for various works under the scheme. Material under the scheme is always procured on credit and its payment is received by the state government from Center only after completion of the project. The wages, however, are transferred to the accounts of MGNREGA workers directly.
The Department of Rural Development and Panchayat, Punjab, had set a target of Rs 1,500 crore for the state under MGNREGA, which is double the amount of last year. Till August 7, the state could utilise Rs 321 crore, which is around 21 per cent of the total targeted amount to be spent under it in this financial year.
The government has fixed targets for every district and these districts have to meet those in this financial year to utilise the entire funds.
Out of 22 districts, only 6 districts have utilised 25 per cent and above funds against their respective targets, while 8 districts utilised around 20 per cent funds, and the remaining 8 districts are sitting between 13 to 18 per cent only. Currently, Fatehgarh Sahib district is at the top by completing works worth Rs 22.57 crore (31.7 per cent) against its annual target of Rs 71 crore. Faridkot is in second place where works worth Rs 16.96 crore (30 per cent) of the total target Rs 57 crore have been completed, while Rupnagar too has completed Rs 11.84 crore (27 per cent) work against the total target of Rs 44 crore. Amritsar, Moga, Jalandhar and Mohali districts have not even completed even 15 per cent of their respective targets till August 5.
Out of 13,332 Gram Panchayats (GPs) of the state, nearly 666 GPs have not utilised even single penny under MGNREGA.
Under MGNREGA, 60:40 ratio should be maintained for money to be spent on wages and material, respectively.
Out of total expenditure to date, the wages of Rs 243 crore have been paid to the MGNREGA workers. Rs 72.85 crore was spent on the material and skilled wages out of which the material’s share was just 23 per cent.
Till date, total of 93 lakh person-days have been created but most of the workers are engaged in Natural Resource Management (NRM) works rather than asset creating works.
Currently, 91,000 works have been taken up across Punjab out of which 89,000 works in progress, while 2,385 works have been completed so far.
Only 30 per cent of works are taken up under Category B, which include creating community or individual assets, while 62 per cent of works are being done under Agriculture and Agriculture Allied Works.
There are four types of works that are undertaken under MGNREGA. Under Category A, NRM works like water conservation, water harvesting, watershed management, tree plantation, irrigation works, dug out farm ponds, renovation of traditional water bodies, land development flood control, land development, are included. In Category B, community or individual assets for vulnerable sections are taken up which include improving the productivity of land, improving livelihood through horticulture, sericulture plantation, and farm forestry, unskilled wage components in the construction of houses, infrastructure promotion of livestock and fisheries. Category C includes common infrastructure work for agriculture productivity and in Category D, rural infrastructures like rural connectivity, rural sanitation, playfield, disaster preparedness and construction of buildings, etc. are included.
“Our villages can turn into a paradise if our sanctioned works, which get approved at fast pace under MGNREGA get completed on time but getting material is a big headache for us,” said Kulwinder Singh Bolina, Sarpnach of Bolina villages, adding that three projects of his village including a park, a playground with badminton court and a water sewerage plant are pending waiting for construction material for the past several months.
“On the other hand, we have cleaned our village pond, which is spread over 2.5 acres land, under MGNREGA because here we just needed labour not material and labour wages are paid on time,” he said, adding that even three soak pits, which are not very costly, constructed at the common places in the village resulted in no accumulation of water on streets after heavy rain.
“We have got some panchayat funds with us and we are ready to spend that for purchasing material but that money is not sufficient as we need Rs 30 lakh material for our asset creating projects and the material dealers are not ready to supply material on credit,” he said, while informing that re-reimbursement of such money gets delayed.
The amount of Rs 42,000, which was spent on an under-construction park by the previous panchayat, has yet not been reimbursed, said the Sarpanch.
“We need support from the government for procuring the material like cement, sand, bricks, pipes, etc. as government can identify such dealers in every block who can supply material in advance and then the government can re-reimburse them after getting funds from the Center,” said another Sarpanch, Gurmail Singh, of Jalandhar district.
Under MGNREGA the rural heartland can be rejuvenated and changed for the better with projects like cow shelters, soak pits, but government help is needed otherwise the approved projects may not see light of the day, said a Block Development and Panchayat Officer (BDPO) of Jalandhar.
Rural Development Department had proposed to the government to create a corpus of Rs 200 crore under which some advance payments to the suppliers of material can be done and then the government would claim it from the Center to keep the pace of work continue.
However, Minister for Rural Development and Panchyat Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa could not be contacted.
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