New Delhi, Sep 10 (PTI) Wage payments under MGNREGA have been delayed and will further compound woes of migrants unless additional funds of Rs 40,000 crore are not immediately released, civil society group People's Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG) said on Thursday.
Underlining that India is confronting an unprecedented crisis in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, PAEG, in a statement, alleged that the unplanned lockdown has resulted in a 'massive crisis of livelihood'.
Majority of migrant workers returned home to their villages over the lockdown period and many of them are yet to return to cities. With limited employment opportunities in rural India, the only viable dignified livelihood option for many of migrants returned as well as the rest of the rural poor is the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), PAEG said in a statement.
PAEG had worked closely with the Congress-led UPA government in framing MGNREGA.
Talking about implementation of MGNREGA under the BJP-led NDA dispensation, the civil society group said it is heartening that for the first time in six years, the government has recognised the importance of the employment guarantee programme by making the highest ever allocation in absolute terms.
Total Rs one lakh has been allocated by the Centre this year, including Rs 40,000 crore announced by it as part of the relief package in the wake of the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
PAEG said the financial year began with pending wage liabilities of around Rs 16,000 crore. So, fresh allocation for the current fiscal was actually about Rs 84,000 crore.
'Even before the half-way mark about Rs 64,000 crore has already been spent. As on September 9, 2020, there is already a deficit of more than Rs 481 crore. Unless the additional promised amount of Rs 40,000 crore is released immediately, delays in wage payments that have already begun will compound the woes of the marginalised,' it said.
PAEG alleged that MGNREGA was plagued with several issues in the last six years during the BJP government as it has been routinely under-funded, resulting in massive delays in wage payments.
With being underfunded, the employment guarantee programme has become a de-facto supply-driven programme instead of a demand-based employment guarantee, which was its aim, PAEG claimed.
In several states, MGNREGA wages have been below the minimum pay which has discouraged workers from seeking employment in the programme, it said, claiming that the programme has moved away from community asset creation to promotion of material-intensive, individual assets, adversely impacting the employment generation. PTI JTR SNE