At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has affected employment, especially in rural areas, around 500 daily wagers registered under the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district have alleged irregularities in the payment of their wages for nearly 20 months, to the tune of ₹20 lakh, The News Minute reported.
The MGNREGA is a demand-driven wage employment scheme. Every adult member of a household in a rural area having job card as per the Act, is eligible for a demand for a job under the scheme. A total of 86,81,928 new job cards during the current financial year have so been issued as compared to 64,95,823 new job cards issued during the FY 2019-20, a Ministry of Rural Development statement says.
The East Godavari incident came to light from Chirutapudi gram panchayat of Ambajipeta mandal. After complaints from the workers, the Human Rights Forum (HRF) conducted a fact-finding visit to the village earlier this week.
TNM quoted HRF district president Muthyala Srinivas as saying that around 500 daily wage workers are suffering as they are not getting wages for work that they have done.
The HRF said the workers said their complaints were not addressed despite several appeals to the district authorities. The HRF found fault with the field level staff in implementing the scheme, saying they failed to issue job cards on time and did not record the work done by the labourers.
District authorities say they are looking into the allegations.
Project Director (PD) District Water Management Authority said that the government had taken notice of the incident.
The HRF has demanded immediate disbursal of the pending wages, saying it will seek legal remedy.
In the wake of Covid-19-related reverse migration, the Centre enhanced fund allocation under MGNREGA by Rs. 40,000 crores. In the financial year 2019–2020, approximately 13 crore workers availed of work under the scheme.
As per website of the Union Ministry of Rural Development, nearly 94 lakh job cards have been issued under the MGNREGA in 13 districts. In East Godavari, 31,923 households have been employed under the scheme. Across the state, the number of households covered under the scheme is 4.92 lakh.
With 49.52 lakh labourers engaged under the MGNREGA, Rajasthan occupies first rank in providing jobs to migrant workers returning to their native villages during the pandemic.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced an allocation of ₹61,500 crore for the MGNREGA for the year 2020-21, down by more than 13 per cent from the total estimated expenditure for 2019-20 which was at ₹71,001.81 crore.
In May this year, Sitharaman announced ₹40,000 crore hike in the MGNREGA budget to ensure that labourers who are migrating back to their home states get work there.