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Saturday, November 27, 2021

NREGS: Despite faring well, Punjab has inadequate funds to pay wages

However, Punjab faced a negative account of NREGA net balance at Rs 177.81 crore till November 8 — which has severely impacted the poor, because it is mainly people from the poorer sections that work under MGNREGA.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
November 14, 2021 8:47:18 am
Amid the Covid outbreak, there was a huge demand for work in the state last year as well as this year.

THOUGH PUNJAB has been faring well in the National Rural Employment Generation Scheme (NREGS) this year too, due to a change in policy regarding regarding payments to NREGA workers — which has now however been rolled back — it has come under the category of negative balance, which means inadequate funds to pay wages and material expenditure.

Punjab has spent Rs 907.36 crore including Rs 577.93 crore on wages expenditure and Rs 329.43 crore on material expenditure till October 31 this year, against Rs 731.02 crore including Rs 566.62 crore on wages expenditure and Rs 164.40 crore on material expenditure in the same corresponding period last year. The state has set a target of around Rs 1,500 crore under the scheme.

However, Punjab faced a negative account of NREGA net balance at Rs 177.81 crore till November 8 — which has severely impacted the poor, because it is mainly people from the poorer sections that work under MGNREGA.

Sources in the Punjab Rural Development department said that this year, in March, the Union Ministry of Rural Development has advised the states to divide payments in separate categories for SCs, STs and other MGNREGA workers. Earlier, the payments used to be done through a single fund transfer order and there was just one account in which the wages money for workers of all categories were credited. After the new order, three accounts were created.

“Because of these three accounts, for months there used to be surplus amount in one account and negative balance in another because of which payments of the workers used to get delayed,” said a source, adding that now the Centre has rolled back the order of separate payments accounts and things might get streamlined soon. Moreover, due to festive season, there were so many holidays and the money could not be credited in the states’ accounts by the Centre.

Amid the Covid outbreak, there was a huge demand for work in the state last year as well as this year.

The state had fixed a target of Rs 1,500 crore last year too, out of which the state had achieved the target to a large extent by spending around Rs 1,300 crore under the scheme and this year also, Rs 907 crore have already been spent till October 31, with five month of the current financial year left.

Data sourced from the department of Rural Development and Panchayats from April to November 11 showed that around 16.77 lakh active workers including 67.19 per cent SCs are working under the scheme in the state, and 213.53 lakh person days have been generated from April 1 to November 11 this year.

There is a huge demand for work under the scheme and it will lead the state to achieve a huge target again in the current year too, said secretary, Department of Rural Development and Panchayats Rahul Bhandhari, adding that recently, the department got sanctioned Rs 116 crore more and regular efforts are being made to get continuous grants from the Centre.

The Punjab government has provided employment to 7.45 lakh households in this financial year against 9.54 lakh households in the last entire financial year — 78 per cent of the total households that got employment last year.

Till date, 8.92 lakh individuals have worked against 11.85 lakh in the entire financial year last year — which is 75 per cent of last year’s total individuals worked in the whole year.

Out of total person days, 59.03 per cent are of women this year against 56.91 per cent last year.

The state has taken up 1.54 lakh works this year which included both new and pending — out of which 1.34 lakh works are going on and 20,100 works have been completed.

Meanwhile, in Punjab, 20.91 lakh job cards were issued this year against 18.28 lakh last year, out of which 12.74 lakh job cards were active against 10.81 lakh last year. There are 13,325 gram panchayats (GPs), out of which 468 GPs have not done any expenditure under NREGS till the time.

Projects under MNREGA have two components — labour and material — with a rider that labour must be at least 60 per cent with the balance being the material. In the material component for some works listed under NREGS, the Punjab government also contributes 25 per cent share against 75 per cent of the central government.

Meanwhile, among other North Indian states barring Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, all other states are in negative net MGNREGA balance. Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh are also showing a negative balance of Rs 500 crore, Rs 219 crore, Rs 154 crore and around Rs 4 crore respectively. But Haryana and UP were showing Rs 324 crore and Rs 345 crore net MGNREGA balance on November 8.

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