NREGA dilution finger at Centre

-The Telegraph

New Delhi: Activists and researchers today accused the Centre of systematically curtailing the 100-day rural job scheme by not releasing funds for the payment of beneficiaries, diluting norms to avoid giving compensation and cancelling cards of genuine job-seekers.

They said payments to around 10 crore poor workers were getting delayed because of the lack of funds.

The Union rural development ministry denied the charges.

At a news conference, Nikhil Dey of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, professor Jayati Ghosh, who teaches economics at JNU, Ankita Agrawal, an independent researcher, and Kamayani Swamy, a member of the central employment guarantee council of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), said the non-release of funds was discouraging workers.

Ghosh said the arrears for the work done in 2016-17 was Rs 11,000 crore. "The Centre is not releasing the funds, delaying wage payment on time, which discourages workers to seek job," she said.

Dey alleged that in a circular that came into effect in April last year, the Centre diluted the provision of compensation in case of delayed payments.

If there is a delay in payment beyond 15 days, a worker is entitled to compensation at the rate of 0.05 per cent of the pending amount per day.

"The circular says compensation is payable for the period above 15 days from the closure of the muster roll to the date of generation of the pay order. If there is a delay in the release of funds from the Union government, a worker will not get any compensation," Dey said.

Researcher Agrawal said the government recently removed one crore "fake and dubious" job card-holders but most of them were genuine beneficiaries.

Aparajita Sarangi, the joint secretary in the rural development ministry in charge of the MGNREGA, denied the claims. She said the 2016-17 arrears as on March 31 was Rs 8,966 crore. The government has cleared Rs 4,014 crore for wage payment, she said.

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The Telegraph, 19 April, 2017, https://www.telegraphindia.com/1170420/jsp/nation/story_147330.jsp#.WPhp3NzhXIU

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