The Hindu

MGNREGS run­ning out of funds

50% of al­lo­ca­tion al­ready used up; mon­soon af­fects work avail­abil­ity

- Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent Mahatma Gandhi · Azim Premji · Jharkhand · Bihar

One-third of the way through the fi­nan­cial year, govern­ment data show that the Ma­hatma Gandhi Na­tional Rural Em­ploy­ment Guar­an­tee Act (MGNREGA) scheme has used up almost half its al­lo­cated funds, spend­ing more than ₹48,500 crore out of the ex­panded ₹1 lakh crore al­lo­ca­tion an­nounced fol­low­ing the COVID-19 out­break.

A new sur­vey of 13 States, pub­lished by the Azim Premji Foun­da­tion (APF), shows what that statis­tic means on the ground — a num­ber of gram pan­chay­ats in vul­ner­a­ble ar­eas have al­ready ex­hausted their funds for the scheme; lower em­ploy­ment rates as the mon­soon stops work in sev­eral States, and fewer liveli­hood op­tions for more than four lakh fam­i­lies across the coun­try which have com­pleted their al­lot­ted 100 days of work.

The APF has rec­om­mended that the Cen­tre al­lo­cate an­other ₹1 lakh crore to the scheme, and dou­ble the per­mit­ted work limit to 200 days per house­hold.

‘New projects needed’

“The Gram Pan­chay­ats’ shelf of projects will likely end by Au­gust 2020. There­fore, a quick process of cre­at­ing fur­ther sets of projects is ur­gently needed. In sev­eral Gram Pan­chay­ats, the ap­proved projects have al­ready been ex­hausted,” said the APF study, based on ground re­ports from part­ner or­gan­i­sa­tions.

How­ever, it com­mended the Odisha govern­ment for in­vest­ing the prad­hans of its Gram Pan­chay­ats with mag­is­te­rial au­thor­i­ties for ef­fi­cient de­ci­sion-mak­ing con­cern­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion and mak­ing pay­ments un­der MGNREGA. “The en­tire process cy­cle of im­ple­men­ta­tion needs to be eased at this time of dis­tress to re­spond to the cur­rent needs for work and pay­ments,” it said.

“De­spite kharif op­er­a­tions, the de­mand for work is still very high; but work­ers in sev­eral States have been given the im­pres­sion that MGNREGA work is sus­pended dur­ing the mon­soon sea­son,” said the re­port.

It named Bi­har, Ch­hat­tis­garh and Gu­jarat as States where the mon­soon has re­duced avail­able work, de­spite high de­mand. The Jhark­hand govern­ment, on the other hand, has taken up 20,000 acres of land for fruit plan­ta­tion work un­der MGNREGA, which is work that can con­tinue to ben­e­fit work­ers through the mon­soon as well.

“Ground ob­ser­va­tions sug­gest the pay­ments are more or less in time where bank­ing cor­re­spon­dents are in place,” said the re­port. It added that pay­ments through banks con­tinue to be in­ef­fi­cient as “rural branches of banks have lim­ited ca­pac­ity and in­fra­struc­ture, and are of­ten over­whelmed by the over­crowd­ing.”

The study noted that wages in the scheme are 25-30% lower than the min­i­mum wages for agri­cul­tural work­ers in most States.

 ?? SPE­CIAL AR­RANGE­MENT ■ ?? Long road ahead: Work­ers en­gaged in an MGNREGA project at Nabarang­pur district in Odisha.
SPE­CIAL AR­RANGE­MENT ■ Long road ahead: Work­ers en­gaged in an MGNREGA project at Nabarang­pur district in Odisha.

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