MGNREGA workers sans wages for over 2 months

Subhash Rajta

Tribune News Service

Shimla, November 7

Payments have not been made under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) over the past two months, leaving lakhs of workers in distress. While the payment for material component has seen delays in the past as well, panchayat pradhans claim it is for the first time that the wage component has been delayed for this long. As per the Act, the beneficiaries should receive their dues within 15 days of the completion of the work.

"It's been more than two months since the muster roll for works has been submitted, but the beneficiaries haven't got the payment yet," said Dinesh Jagta, pradhan, Gram Panchayat, Cheog. "It's for the first time there has been such a long delay in the release of the wages. Besides affecting the workers, it has also slowed down several development works," said Jagta.

Development hit

It is for the first time there has been such a long delay in the release of wages. Besides affecting the workers, it has also slowed down several development works. —Dinesh Jagta, Pradhan, Gram panchayat, Cheog

Admitting that payments have not been released for over two months now, Rural Development Director Rugved Thakur said the issue cropped up after the state "overachieved its half-yearly targets". "We achieved our half-yearly targets in August, instead of September, which necessitated some reallocation of budget. We have anyway taken up the matter with the Centre and hopefully the issue will be resolved in the next few days," said Thakur.

The impact of the delayed payments has been more in a district like Mandi, where around 5.50 lakh people have the MGNREGA job cards. "You can imagine the plight of people if they don't get paid for over two months," said Bhupinder Singh, state secretary of MGNREGA and Construction Workers Association. Singh said a large number of people, especially from the Scheduled Caste, are dependent on MGNREGA for their day-to-day expenses. "We have a mixed group of MGNREGA workers, with some having alternative source of income but many entirely dependent on it. The delay of three months in disbursing the wages is too long for the people entirely dependent on MGNREGA," he said.

With the loss of jobs because of Covid, the dependence on MGNREGA has increased manifold. "The scheme has been a great support during the pandemic. We are not out of it and many still need the MGNREGA support. So the government should ensure smooth flow of payments," he said.

There are 26.91 lakh MGNREGA job card holders in the state.

Courtesy: Tribune News Service
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