MGNREGA crisis: 90% funds utilized, 68% payments pending, says study

 Joe C Mathew        Last Updated: December 4, 2017  | 19:49 IST
MGNREGA crisis: 90% funds utilized, 68% payments pending, says study
Photo: Reuters

Lack of funds may threaten the smooth functioning of Central government's largest job generation scheme implemented under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

Only 32 percent of the labour charges due to the workers for completed jobs have been paid on time during the first two quarters of 2017-18, an analysis carried out by a team of researchers say.

"With nearly 90 percent of the funds being utilised and more than a quarter of the financial year remaining, the problem of delay in payments and non-provision of work is likely to increase sharply" says Rajendran Narayanan, an Assistant Professor in Azim Premji University. Narayanan is one of the co-authors of the study that analysed publically available data on 4.5 million MGNREGA payment transactions for work carried out in 3603 gram panchayats across 10 states during April-September 2017 period. The study also points out that the government's claim that 85 percent of payments are made in time are grossly incorrect because the delays are either completely unaccounted for or only the state responsibility for delay is computed for payment of compensation in the government's MNREGA website.

According to the government's Management Information System, the compensation that is mandated under the Act for delay in payment for the sample size chosen by the researchers were Rs 1.03 crore. However, the calculations made by them points to a compensation of Rs 7.52 crores that is due to the workers. "The Management Information System has only calculated Rs. 1.03 crores - an underestimation of 86%. If this trend holds true for the entire country, then the true payable delay compensation would be Rs. 76 crores", the researchers say.

The researchers point out that over the past three months, only 6% of the budget has been utilized, indicating a severe brake on the running of the programme. "Even though the Ministry had asked for an additional Rs 17,000 crores in September. The Government of India has not provided the funds, leaving the ministry with only 7% of funds for the rest of the financial year. The Ministry of Rural Development is left with only about Rs. 6,000 crores, even as multiple states already have a negative balance amounting to approximately Rs. 3,000 crores", the report says.

The uncertainty in payments is also resulting in lesser interest among rural poor to demand their guaranteed work days from the local administrations.

NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, the civil society collective that revealed the contents of the study wants the central government to clear all pending payments and pay full compensation for the total delay at both state and central level. It also called for making available adequate budget for the programme and provide work to the rural poor as per demand.

Independent researchers Sakina Dhorajiwala and Rajesh Golani were also part of the research team that analysed the MIS data

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