Contrary to the claims of highest ever allocation to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the social security scheme that aims to guarantee the right to work is facing severe fund crisis – with state governments left with no funds to pay workers. From October 2018 to February 1, no Fund Transfer Orders (FTOs) were processed due to non-availability of funds for MGNREGA, forcing workers to wait for wages for months, even when the Act promises that wages will be given within 7 to 15 days of work.
According to civil society group, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (NSM), the initial allocation of the financial year 2018-19 of Rs 55,000 crore was long exhausted in January 2019, and owing to mounting pressure and criticism from MGNREGA workers, citizen campaigns and Members of Parliament (MPs), additional funds to the tune of Rs 6,084 crore was released to honour legal commitments to the programme. Out of this, said the organisation, Rs 5,745 crore will go into clearing the backlog of pending liabilities as per the figures reflected on the MIS Report (R.7.1.1). Therefore, there is no fund to pay as wages for the work that has been done or is to be done till June this year. The group has urged the government to sanction Rs 25,000 crore, so that the work in the first nine months of the year can be funded.
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On the other hand, the NDA government had allotted only Rs 60,000 crore for the scheme in its 2019-2020 budget. But NSM demands that the government must increase the funds for the scheme, as government’s own reports have projected that a total amount in the range of Rs 88,000 crore per year would be required for proper implementation of the scheme.
“The Centre in effect has released nearly nothing to create new work in the peak period of January to March 2019. The government of India should immediately release Rs 25,000 crore to fund MGNREGA works till June 2019, when the next interim budget will be passed after the general elections,” said Kamayani, one of the NSM conveners, putting forth their demands while talking to Newsclick over phone.
She said a letter has also been sent to the Union Minister Rural Development from across the country through the district magistrates (DMs) flagging the funds crisis and with their demand. The letter – according to her – has been handed over to the DMs of about 50 districts across the country.
“It is ironical that a government, which seems to have plenty of money to fund bullet trains and the like, and to compensate banks for non-performing assets (NPAs) of corporates who are bent on looting banks, has no money to pay workers who have done their fair share of work and are now awaiting their wages,” she added.
PM Modi to be Booked for ‘Fraud’
MGNREGA workers across the country on February 28 have decided to file a first information report (FIR) of fraud across the country against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as part of the National Day of Action called by the NSM.
“The Government of India is the appropriate authority to implement the provisions of the MGNREGA. As its head, the prime minister is directly responsible for its actions and is responsible for allotting much less money in the past five years, thus repeatedly denying workers of timely payment of wages, causing hunger and hardship for the NREGA workers,” Kamayani alleged.
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Activists hold the prime minister guilty of committing multiple “offences like making false promises to make workers work, cheating them of their wages and disobeying the law, especially the provisions of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005”.
“And it is on the basis of this complaint, thousands of workers across the country while waiting for their pending wages have decided to register a FIR against the principal violator PM Shri Narendra Modi under sections 116 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and to take necessary steps to immediately arrest the wrong doer,” said the NSM in a statement.
The FIRs – it said – will be filed at 150 police stations in the states of Bihar, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka.
Read More: Low Wages Forcing Poor Labourers Out of MGNREGA in Bihar