NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today asked all states to inform the Centre about the money spent by them in the current financial year so far in implementing the national rural employment guarantee scheme MGNREGA.
The bench also asked the states to apprise the Centre about their further financial needs to continue with the social welfare scheme to ensure that the benefits reached drought-affected people. It also asked them to elaborate the current status of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
A bench of Justices M B Lokur and R K Agrawal asked the states to inform the concerned ministry whether they were following the Centre's direction to provide minimum 150 days of employment under MGNREGA. "We direct the states to respond to the Centre within three weeks," the court said, adding that central government will collect data from all the concerned states.
The bench further asked Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar to see whether the state governments were also complying with the provisions of the National Food Security Act and the Drought Manual or not. The court's direction came on a PIL which alleged that the scheme has not been implemented in majority of the states, specially in drought-affected areas.
It said parts of states like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Chattisgarh have been hit by drought and the concerned authorities were not providing adequate relief. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, sought court's direction to appoint local commissioner in each of states, to keep a watch whether the welfares schemes are implemented.
The Solicitor General, who read out part of the Centre's affidavit, submitted that the government has approved the "provision of additional employment of 50 days in areas hit by drought and other natural calamities over and above 100 days per household provided under MGNREGA under normal circumstances".
He further told the bench that the additional employment of 50 days under MGNREGA has been implemented in the notified drought-affected areas of nine states -- Karnataka, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand.
The court was also told that Bihar, Haryana and Gujarat have not made any request for additional employment under the MGNREGA. The Centre was responding to the PIL, filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan run by persons like psephologist Yogendra Yadav, seeking implementation of the National Food Security Act which guarantees 5 kg of food grain per person per month. It has also sought a direction to the authorities that affected families be also given pulses and edible oils. The plea has said that school-going children be also given milk and eggs under the mid-day meal scheme.
It sought adequate and timely compensation for crop loss and input subsidy for the next crop to the farmers affected by drought and subsidised cattle fodder for animals. The plea alleged that the Centre and states "have been highly negligent in performing their obligations, causing enormous damage to the lives of the people due to their inaction, which is in contravention of the rights guaranteed under Articles 21 and 14 of the Constitution of India".
"Unfortunately, most states have not yet implemented this. Except Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, the states have stuck to the previous Public Distribution System schemes that fall short of the NFSA obligations".
"Research shows that the APL/BPL distinction used by most of the states is useless and that the implementation of NFSA has had positive outcomes for these two states," the plea has said. It has said that the drought has led to severe decline in farm employment available to the rural poor. The Centre, however, said in its affidavit that the main responsibility for implementation of National Food Security Act (NFSA) lies with the states and Union Territories (UTs).
"As far as Central government is concerned, it is ready to fulfill its obligation of making necessary foodgrains allocation under NFSA, as and when states/UTs complete their preparedness and inform the Central government," it said, adding that they have been regularly "pursuing with the states and UTs to implement NFSA".