Payment delay takes sheen out of MGNREGS

Flagship scheme sees 61 per cent dip in job demand; officials blame staff crunch

Payment delay takes sheen out of MGNREGS

The demand for jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has come down by around 80 per cent in Bangalore in the last four fiscals, show the latest statistics for the scheme.

This when the State Congress government takes great pride in the “success” of the scheme at the national level.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act makes it mandatory for the State government to ensure a minimum 100 days of unskilled manual labour for any person above the age of 18, demanding employment under the scheme.

But, cut to 2013, there are no takers for the scheme. As per the data provided by MGNREGS at the State level, between 2009-2010 and 2012-2013, the cumulative number of households with job cards demanding employment through this flagship scheme declined from 74,753 to 15,303 in Bangalore (both rural and urban).

According to officials, in 2013-2014, there will be a further dip in the job demand.
The total number of job cards issued to households in the City has also seen a sudden dip of 60 per cent in the past four years.

The phenomenon is no different in other parts of Karnataka. In the same time period, the State has experienced a decline of around 61 per cent, from 36 lakh to 14 lakh, in job demand.

“The scheme in Karnataka was started with great enthusiasm and had received good response from the people. But, in the last few years, the impact has tapered off to a great extent, due to several bureaucratic issues,” said Chandrashekar, Joint Director, MGNREGS, Karnataka.

Why no takers?

Delay in payment of wages is a crucial factor in discouraging poor households from seeking MGNREGS work. Many poor households are now reluctant to register under the scheme, since there is delay in payment.

“Weekly payment of money has become a great challenge for us,” said Munish Moudgil, Director, MGNREGS.

An official on condition of anonymity told Deccan Herald that there was lack of money flow from the Central government to the State.

“In the first quarter of this fiscal year, Rs 840 crore was the pipeline expenditure, but so far we have received only Rs 340 crore from the government.

“We are still waiting to receive the remaining money to pay the pending pay bills under the scheme,” he said.

It has become difficult for the skeletal staff to cover the large number of villages and provide them more work. There is also a shortage of dedicated human resources at the Gram Panchayat level, which delays measurement of land (where work is undertaken) and payment of money.

For better execution of work under the scheme, each panchayat needs one engineer for measurement of land. However, as of now, one engineer takes care of five panchayats.

This certainly delays the payment order, according to the official.

On the manpower crunch, Moudgil said, “We are planning to appoint 3,000 employees in the next few months. As planned, 1,000 will be engineers, 400 agriculture graduates and around 1,400 will be appointed for data interpretation.”

Efforts are being made to speed up works under the scheme. A few months back, the State Rural Development and Panchayat Raj department launched a toll-free helpline number to assist poor people.

“People who seek employment under the scheme can directly dial the toll-free number 1800-425-8666 from any part of the State for assistance. They can claim their job cards and also register complaints,” said Moudgil.

The call centre will not only help them in getting work, but also in managing their accounts.

“We want more people to use this number, to bring in more transparency and efficiency in the scheme,” added Moudgil.

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