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WB: NREGA Work Comes to Standstill as Centre Delays Sanctioning of Labour Budget

Work has been fully stopped already in three districts of West Bengal, in North 24 Parganas, Jalpaiguri, and Malda and others are also following suit.
WB: NREGA Work Comes to Standstill as Centre Delays Sanctioning of Labour Budget

Image Courtesy: Business Standard

Kolkata: With the month of June approaching, the Labour Budget of MGNREGA has not been approved by the Central government, leading to work under the flagship scheme coming to a virtual standstill across West Bengal. Only spillover projects are being allowed to be completed as no new work is being taken up.

Work has been fully stopped already in three districts of West Bengal, in North 24 Parganas, Jalpaiguri, and Malda and others are also following suit. Interestingly, the average days of employment provided per household by the scheme has dropped to 17.09 in the current financial year. In the previous financial year (2021-22), it was 47.94, and in 2020-21, it was 51.98.

From district level, all the blocks are being intimated in West Bengal to, as early as possible, finish the pending MGNREGA works. The registrar has stated that the live works should be started within one week of starting the work, as per a directive issued by the Panchayat Department of Government of West Bengal.

Though geotagging is a must in MGNREGA work, still it has not been done in many cases.

It can be recalled that sapling plantation under MGNREGA work had given rise to large amounts of irregularities. Though it was banned in 2017, the peculiar irregularities are continuing, according to sources.

In north Bengal conditions are no better. Generally, during the month of June onwards, due to the rainy season, work shuts down.

However, in Cooch Behar, from the month of April, MGNREGA work is facing a closure like situation. Out of the 128 gram panchayats in the district, with 27,000 labourers, MGNREGA work has not started in 49 of them. On average, 341 labourers in every gram panchayat have got work opportunities in Cooch Behar district. Most of the money for the work is overdue and is still not paid.

The reason for this condition of MGNREGA work is that the Labour Budget of the scheme, which forms the largest component, is still to be approved at New Delhi.

In Cooch Behar, out of the 9 Assembly seats, 6 voted for the BJP. However, the BJP MLAS are keeping a stoic silence over the whole issue of the Central government not sanctioning the Labour Budget. Nikhil Ranjan Dey, an MLA from Cooch Behar Dakshin, said that the work is pending as utilisation certificates of earlier work have not gone to New Delhi.

The stoppage of 100 days of work under the scheme has led to exodus of migrants to other states. There was a time when 100 days' work created a comfort period for the agrarian workers who would work for the scheme and declined offers to go to other states where they would have to face risks, as work was available in their own villages.

It can be recollected that on May 12 last year, Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee had written to the Prime Minister citing that Rs 3,000 crores under Labour Budget of MGNREGA was pending, and at the same time under material cost Rs 3,500 crores was pending. However, this year the entire Labour Budget is pending. Interestingly, during the last year’s lockdown, West Bengal had demanded that the Central government continue with a 100 days’ work programme.

The condition is such that the administration workers under the scheme are perturbed about their payment, which is 6% of the entire Labour Budget.

“In South 24 Parganas labourers are now not interested to work for MGNREGA work as labour wage of last year is pending,” said Kamal Mitra, pradhan of Hariharpur gram panchayat that comes under Baruipur block of the district. “Our papers are all okay and have been sent to the Block level. However as the Labour Budget is not sanctioned, work on the ground is suffering the most,” Mitra told NewsClick.

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