NEW DELHI: Despite 2017-18 being touted as the year with the highest-ever allocation of funds under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme (MGNREGA), official data shows that wage disbursement has been frozen in as many as 20 states since September.
According to data on the official web portal for the scheme, the stranglehold on wage approvals began as early as the first two weeks in September in Assam, Karnataka, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, UP, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Kerala, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Puducherry.
Of these, nil payments have been approved for requests from Assam (Sept 6), Karnataka (Sept 7), Punjab (Sept 11) and Rajasthan (Sept 14) since the dates mentioned. For the rest, pendency levels on the few dates when payments were approved since the freezing remained above 90 per cent. Other states like Maharashtra (Oct 7), Tripura (Oct 26), Madhya Pradesh (Oct 10) and Gujarat (Oct 22) have also stopped disbursing wages.
Wages paid under the scheme go through several levels of clearances. A Fund Transfer Order (FTO) to credit wages to accounts is first raised at the district level, and then by the state. These requests first have to be approved through the Centre-managed Public Financial Management System (PFMS), then the nodal MGNREGA bank from which payments are credited. If the PFMS has not responded to approval requests, FTOs will be pending, say experts.
At the end of October, rights group NREGA Sangharsh Morcha said payments worth `3,066 crore remained frozen as on Oct 20. “These are wages for which FTOs have been approved by the first and second signatories, and are pending Centre-level,” it said, adding that the MGNREGA Management Information System captured delays in the processes at state level, but not at Centre.
What the Centre had said
In a release dated October 27, the Rural Development Ministry said “timely signing of FTOs has improved from 43.6% to 84.9%,” adding that it was taking all steps to “ensure timely payment of wages”