A total of Rs 3,358.14 crore is pending as wages to workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, or MGNREGA, in financial year 2021-’22 till January 27, the Centre told the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
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.
West Bengal tops the list of largest pending payments with Rs 752.16 crore in liabilities, followed by Uttar Pradesh with Rs 597.07 crore, Rajasthan with Rs 555.08 crore, Jharkhand with Rs 379.18 crore and Odisha with Rs 297.85 crore.
In a written reply, Minister of State for Rural Development, Niranjan Jyoti, stated that 12 states and Union Territories did not have any arrears. These are Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Manipur, Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
The data also showed that the Centre’s flagship rural employment scheme did not generate work in Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
On the question if the Centre was planning to increase the maximum number of days of MGNREGA work, Jyoti said that the scheme provides 100 days of employment guarantee in addition to 50 days in areas impacted by natural calamity.
“As per Section 3 (4) of the Mahatma Gandhi NREG Act, 2005, the State Governments may make provision for providing additional days beyond the period guaranteed under the Act from their own funds,” she added.
This news about pending payments came after the Centre allocated only Rs 73,000 crore for MGNREGA in the Budget for 2022-’23.
In the 2021 Budget, the Centre had also allocated Rs 73,000 crore to the rural job guarantee scheme. However, the estimate was later revised to Rs 93,000 crore. Thus, this year’s allocation is 25.51% lower than the revised estimates.
Members of several Opposition parties disapproved of the Centre’s allocation to the scheme.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) in a tweet said that the government had “responded to the demand for urban employment guarantee by cutting down expenditure by 25,000 crores in MGNREGA”.
Mansoor Khan, chairman of Congress Research Department, noted that the Centre had chosen not to spend on a scheme that “gave hope” to people who lost jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, had also criticised the government’s slashed Budget for the rural employment scheme.
“During Covid-19, this MGNREGA served as a lifeline for workers who lost jobs... 1.80 lakh crore should have been allotted to MGNREGA, but you have kept only Rs 73,000 crore for the scheme,” Kharge said in the House.