The Supreme Court on Wednesday criticised the central government for not releasing enough funds for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act to drought-hit states. Saying that the temperatures have touched 45 degrees Celsius and there is no drinking water in these regions, a bench headed by Justice MB Lokur and comprising Justice NV Ramana directed the Centre to provide relief immediately and “not after one year”. The bench told the Centre, “If you are not releasing the funds, then no one will like to work. States will say they have no funds, so they can’t pay anyone for MGNREGA work. No state will make any commitment to the people.”

The apex court was hearing a PIL filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan, which has sought a direction to the Centre to abide by MNREGA provisions and use it to generate employment in areas affected by drought, PTI reported. The PIL claimed that parts of 12 drought-affected states – Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Chattisgarh – had not received adequate relief. However, in an attempt to prove its commitment to help people in drought-hit regions, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand assured the bench drought-hit states will get Rs 2,723 crore as wage liability. The matter will come up for hearing again on Thursday.