In a bid to avoid delays in payments of wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA), the Centre has released more than half of the budgeted outlay under the job guarantee in first three months of the current fiscal.
According to rural development ministry data, against the the budgetary allocation of `38,500 crore in FY17, the finance ministry has released more than `22,000 crore or around 57% in the April-June period. “Because of drought conditions prevailing, there was a huge demand for jobs under MGNREGA, leading to extra expenditure of more than `7,000 crore in the last fiscal. Thus, at the start of this fiscal, we have decided to ensure that last year’s pending wages are paid immediately,” rural development minister Birender Singh said on Monday at the Indian Express Group’s Idea Exchange programme.
In FY16, against the revised estimate of `35,766 crore for MGNREGA, the total requirement was `43,000 crore, leading to delays in release of wages to workers.
According to a ministry official, the allocation under MGNREGA does not lapse after the financial year is over, it is carried forward to next fiscal. “Last fiscal, we generated record number of person days of more than 235 crore, thus putting pressure on budgetary allocation leading to delays in wage payment to workers,” Singh said.
At the start of the fiscal, Singh wrote to the chief secretaries of 13 drought-affected states directing them to ensure that during April-June, until monsoon arrives, no person who demands jobs under MGNREGA should be turned away. This year Gujarat, Haryana and Bihar were added to the existing list of 10 drought-affected states that include Maharashtra, Telangana, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
Meanwhile, in a bid to ensure durable assets are created under MGNREGA, the government has decided to geo-tag assets in each gram panchayat in a mission mode. An MoU had been recently signed between the rural development ministry and Isro in this regard.