In order to optimise availability of work to millions of unorganised labourers returning to their villages following loss of livelihood in the cities, Maharashtra’s commissioner for the employment guarantee scheme has ordered streamlining of various processes, including ensuring payment of salaries to Gram Rozgar Sevaks, payment of pending bills and completion of pending works.
The state is witnessing a record demand for work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), with as many as 9.97 lakh people given work as of June 1, a sharp rise from 19,509 workers on April 4, 1.4 lakh on April 23 and 6.53 lakh on May 18. As of Monday, the total number of those in the state who have demanded work under the law, which guarantees 100 days of paid work per year, is as high as 17.20 lakh.
Alongside closely monitoring data on progress in MGNREGA works, a cell operationalised in the commissionerate now randomly calls beneficiaries of works listed under the scheme, such as irrigation wells on privately owned farms. “The system merely logs it as a muster roll generated, or wages paid, but when we speak to beneficiaries we understand the other end of the story, which may be quite different — material costs may have not been paid yet, the work may be incomplete and the beneficiary may require more work,” MGNREGA Commissioner ASR Nayak told The Indian Express.
A team of 10 officials now randomly selects and calls beneficiaries of such works. The commissioner himself spoke to a beneficiary of an irrigation well in Dhule district who had been unable to get payment due to him for costs of construction material.
Nayak said such cases are plenty, and take various forms. In some cases, a muster roll generated in a previous year could be abruptly stopped because the original beneficiary is dead, or living elsewhere.
Another measure now in place is to systematically analyse the number of work estimates made in order to boost the speed at which administrative approvals and sanctions are accorded. “We are identifying persons responsible for preparing work estimates. We check what is the approved labour budget for that area and how many work estimates have been created against that budget. This is showing results,” Nayak said.
Among other checks and balances now being undertaken is a verification of whether Gram Rozgar Sevaks have been paid salaries, central to ensuring that the village-level staff is motivated. In several instances, while the sum is approved and transferred to the BDO and from there on to the account of the gram panchayat, the payment to the Gram Rozgar Sevak, usually done by the Sarpanch and the Gram Sevak, remains pending. In one instance in Beed, this salary was pending for nearly two years.
Demand for work under MGNREGA and workers at job sites have both risen sharply since mid-April. Demand is expected to be high during the kharif season also, with the returning labourers from cities adding to the pressure on the rural economy. While district collectors are preparing a shelf of works for the coming months, Maharashtra has a very large number of ongoing works that do not currently have labourers on site. As of Monday, while the total number of ongoing works in the state is 5,23,060, the total number of musters issued was 46,318. Nayak said more than creating a shelf of works, his focus will be on completing these ongoing works.
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