The Centre on Friday released Rs 4,431 crore to clear pending wage dues under the rural jobs scheme Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, PTI reported. The government will pay all outstanding dues, amounting to Rs 11,499 crore, by April 10.

Government officials said all amounts will be directly transferred into the bank accounts of the workers. The decisions were taken in the wake of a 21-day national shutdown in place to combat the coronavirus, which has claimed 17 lives in India and infected at least 724 people, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Officials said an increase in wages under MNREGA will come into effect from April 1. With this rise in wages, the national average wage under MNREGA will increase to Rs 202 per person per day from Rs 182.

There are 13.62 crore job card holders under the MGNREGA, out of which 8.17 crore are active job card holders.

The officials added that work carried out by beneficiaries belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes on their own land may continue during the 21-day lockdown. Similarly, the work done by women who are bread-earners of their families on their own land is likely to continue. However, other MNREGA work has been stopped due to fear of the spread of Covid-19 infection.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced an economic bailout package worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore to help the poor tide over the impact of the countrywide lockdown. Sitharaman had also said that MNREGA wages would be raised to benefit five crore families. Every worker will get an additional wage of Rs 2,000 over the next three months.