At a time when the NDA government’s moves to prune spending on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and to limit its scope has brought the focus back on the gaps in the scheme’s implementation, data with the Ministry of Rural Development show over 70 per cent wages have not been paid on time under the scheme so far this financial year.
As per a presentation made during an internal review meeting of the scheme by the Rural Development Ministry earlier this month, only 28.22 per cent of wage payments have been made within the stipulated 15 days till December, indicating 72 per cent of the payments were delayed. Of the delayed payments, almost 9 per cent were paid after 90 days.
MGNREGA promises a 100 days of work every year to each rural household. The Act stipulates that payments are made to workers within 15 days of completion of work. Delayed payments have been one of the biggest criticisms of the scheme, causing distress to those seeking work and also discouraging some from opting for work under it.
The data shows some of the worst performing states are West Bengal and Punjab where merely 8 per cent of the wages were paid within 15 days, followed by Karnataka, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh where 14 per cent, 16 per cent and 18 per cent of the wages were paid on time.
Only in six states — Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand — more than half of the wages were paid within the mandated time frame. Such delays have occurred despite steps taken to check them, including asking states to fix responsibilities on functionaries causing delays and paying compensation to aggrieved workers.
Ministry officials say the percentage of delays has been higher this financial year because of backlogs in releasing funds to states. Several states have faced serious fund crunches because of ad-hoc releases by the Centre, curtailing their ability to pay wages on time.
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