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UP: Rs 313 Cr MGNREGA Wages Pending, Workers Not Paid Since January

Azamgarh has the largest pending payments of Rs 10.16 crore, followed by Sitapur with Rs 8.07 crore, Sonbhadra with Rs 6.08 crore, Jaunpur with Rs 5.18 crore and Lakhimpur with Rs 3.85 crore.
Bengal: Govt Cancels Over 14 Lakh Fake job Cards for 100 Days Work, Crackdown on

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Flickr

Lucknow: A total of Rs 310 crore is pending as wages to workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, or MGNREGA, in the financial year 2022-23 till March 31 in Uttar Pradesh, according to the data by the Union Ministry of Rural Development.

The scheme ensures 100 days of guaranteed wage employment of unskilled manual work to at least one adult member of every household in rural areas.

The district-wise data, accessed by NewsClick, shows that Azamgarh tops the list of largest pending payments with Rs 10.16 crore in liabilities, followed by Sitapur with Rs 8.07 crore, Sonbhadra with Rs 6.08 crore, Jaunpur with Rs 5.18 crore and Lakhimpur with Rs 3.85 crore.

The data also showed that the Centre’s flagship rural employment scheme did not generate work in Hapur, Baghpat, Gautam Buddh Nagar and Ghaziabad.

According to the data, there are 1.36 crore registered MGNREGA labourers in Uttar Pradesh, out of which only two to three lakh persons are getting work every day. Only 4.98 lakh people received work for 100 days, as mandated by the employment scheme in the financial year 2022-23, government data showed.

In 2019-20, the number of people who got 100 days of work was around 5.12 lakh. It was 4.26 lakh in 2018-19, according to the data.

Activists allege that the programme has been plagued by systemic problems that are disincentivising participation, the most recent being the app-based registration and attendance system.

"MGNREGA is a demand-driven wage employment programme, and resource transfer from the Centre to states is based on the demand for employment in each state. But the demand from people is not being considered, which is the key reason for people not getting work. Besides, choking of funds has led to suppression of work demand and delay in wage payments. The introduction of unnecessary technical complexities, like an app for attendance at worksites has caused more hardships for workers,” Suresh Singh Rathod, convener of MGNREGA Mazdoor Union, told NewsClick. 

Rathod condemned the decreasing funds allotted to the MGNREGA scheme by the Union government and said development works in several villages had come to standstill. 

Read Also: Minister Misled Lok Sabha About not Receiving any Complaints Related to NREGA App: NSM

Pointing out the “apathy” shown by both state and Central governments, Singh, who is based in Varanasi, said, "All the development works are being done by machines in Varanasi. We have surveyed many blocks where people have been paid only for 8-10 days despite working for a month.”

Meanwhile, only 2,354 people got 100 days of work under MGNREGA in the Prime Minister's parliamentary constituency (Varanasi) while 12, 914 labourers received 100 days’ work in Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s home district, Gorakhpur, which is not even one-third of total registered workers, as per data.

Sudhir Panwar, former UP Planning Commission member and professor at Lucknow University, told NewsClick, "The government's focus at this time is on National Highways where they have spent huge money but all the work is being done by machines. Machines have eaten the wages of beneficiaries. Rural poverty will end only if labour components are involved in highways work." 

When asked for the reason why people are not getting work under MGNREGA, he said, "In Western UP, labour wage is high in comparison to the government scheme. Also, they receive it on time whereas under MGNREGA they do not get money for months."

Read Also: New NREGA Wage Rates Akin to "Slavery", say Workers' Organisations

The Centre recently notified a hike in wage rates under the rural job guarantee programme for 2023-24 with Haryana having the highest daily wage at Rs 357 per day and Uttar Pradesh, the lowest at Rs 230.

A Matter Of 'Survival'

People in the rural areas of Uttar Pradesh, engaged in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), have not been paid their wages for the past four months. The delay has adversely hit thousands of families.

Besides, most works under MGNREGA have come to standstill in the absence of funds for the purchase of materials like cement and steel, etc.

NewsClick spoke to at least dozen beneficiaries of the scheme in Bundelkhand, Sonbhadra, Sitapur, Azamgarh, Gorakhpur, Varanasi, Bahraich and Ghazipur who worked for months but have not yet received their payment.

"More than a month and a half has passed but the payment has not been made. This has made it difficult to make ends meet. Releasing wages three-four months late is a common practice. It is a matter of survival. Therefore, we are working as farm labourers or migrating to metro cities in search of a job," Bhola, a beneficiary of MGNREGA in Sitapur, told NewsClick.

Read Also: MGNREGA: Nearly 1.5 crore Job Seekers Refused Work Till Now

Another worker who has not received her wages since January said that she started working in her village. She has a debt of Rs 12,000 to repay. 

"It’s been more than three months since the muster roll for works has been submitted, the beneficiaries haven’t got the payment,” said Raja Ram, village head in Bahraich district told NewsClick, adding that several development works had slowed down in the absence of funds.

However, another pradhan in Lakhimpur Kheri told NewsClick that payment had been released by the government last week which would be disbursed among workers soon. 

Meanwhile, NewsClick also analysed the data of workers continuously decreasing in every district due to the government's app-based attendance and delay in payment. According to statistics, the number of labourers working under MGNREGA in 835 gram panchayats of the Ayodhya (Faizabad) district has been reduced to only 21,000, while a month ago the number of workers working daily was more than 25,000.

The situation in other backward districts, including Sitapur, Sonbhadra, Bahraich and Bundelkhand, is similar where workers either opted to work as farm labourers or are moving to cities in search of work.

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