Fund shortage, delayed payments put MGNREGA and workers in peril

Though the BJP government wished to do away with the scheme, the sheer scale of it is stopping them. In fact, the budgetary allocation and expenditure for the scheme increased year on year. | Photo - iStock

For Yellavva Shivanappa Yandravi (40), a farm labourer in Hirenandi village of Karnataka’s Belagavi district, the July-August rains and floods last year meant poor livelihood prospects. While every year, she found work in neighbouring farms during the harvest season between June-October, in 2019, she was left at the mercy of the government’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) that guaranteed 100 days of work a year for every rural household.

Yandravi usually opted MGNREGA jobs between January and May, but last year, she badly needed the scheme during the monsoon season too to run her family. By November last, she and two others of her family exhausted the 100 days of guaranteed work but they are yet to receive payment for the month. And now, she is worried as summers are approaching.

Yandravi sought more work under the scheme as the state government had assured additional 50 days of work in case of natural calamities, but she could not find work. To make matters worse, her village panchayat faced fund shortage and delayed payment from the government under the scheme. The Centre owed Karnataka nearly ₹2,000 crores in MGNREGA dues.

Siddappa one of the panchayat member says besides payment delays, the 60:40 wage- material ratio was making it difficult for them to come up with new jobs as the floods had filled tanks and ponds in the village and they were not in a position to allocate the pit digging (for ponds) work that they do every year.

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