Centre's delay hits Karnataka rural jobs

Centre's delay hits Karnataka rural jobs

Under the MGNREGA, unskilled labourers are provided employment for 100 days a year.

Unskilled labourers have not been paid wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for the past three months and Karnataka is mounting pressure on the Centre for the release of Rs 2,700 crore required for rural job creation.

Karnataka has targeted creating 12 crore person-days of work by the end of 2019-20 fiscal. But the state is facing a severe slowdown in rural job creation under the flagship scheme — from generating five lakh person-days a day, it has plummeted to about 1.60 lakh, figures show.  

Under the MGNREGA, unskilled labourers are provided employment for 100 days a year. Karnataka increased this by 50 days this year because of floods and drought. Unskilled labourers employed under MGNREGA are paid Rs 249 a day. Wages are paid by the Centre in full, while material costs are shared between the Centre and state in a 75:25 ratio.

According to the Rural Development & Panchayat Raj (RDPR) department, the Centre owes Karnataka Rs 2,784 crore towards wage and material payments. “Wages haven’t been paid since October,” RDPR principal secretary L K Atheeq informed.

 “This is the major reason for the slowdown in the scheme. The slump in agricultural activity in August and September due to the floods also contributed,” he added.  

On December 20, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa shot off a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman seeking the release of pending funds. 

According to sources, the Union Ministry of Rural Development has been raising, repeatedly, several queries on the state’s request for the release of funds, adding to the delay.  

On December 26, the government wrote to the Union ministry, plainly asking for the release of funds to take precedence. “Should there be any more questions/clarifications we undertake to answer them within two weeks. Pending those we request that immediate funds be released to pay wages and material bills,” the government stated. 

Previously, Karnataka released Rs 803 crore from its own coffers to ensure timely wage payments “and the same is yet to be reimbursed”, the government pointed out. 

In 2018-19, Karnataka generated 10.45 crore person-days. This year, against the 12 crore target, the state has achieved 8.77 crore person-days. Barring Koppal, Chikkamagaluru, Chikballapur, Ballari, Gadag and Raichur that are above the 80% mark in generating person-days against the target, the remaining 24 districts appear to be falling behind. Towards the end of December, over 32 lakh assets had been created across the state under MGNREGA, most of which have been geotagged as required.

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