Rural development ministry clarifies funds availability for MGNREGA; states seek additional money

Responding to the concerns raised by the recently released MG-NREGA National Tracker that shows 90 per cent funds already exhausted and five months of the financial year still left, the Ministry of Rural Development has clarified that the Centre was committed to releasing funds for implementation of the scheme.

Gaon Connection
| Updated: November 2nd, 2021

The total budget allocation for MG-NREGA was 34 per cent less than the revised budget for the previous year. Photo By : Gaon Connection

The Indian government is committed to release funds for wage and material payments for proper implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MG-NREGA), 2005, as per a press statement released by the Ministry of Rural Development. The ministry, which is the nodal agency for MG-NREGA, cleared the air regarding the availability of the funds, or lack thereof of, a day after activists raised alarm bells regarding the insufficiency of funds for implementation of the programme.

Last week on October 29, MG-NREGA National tracker released by Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG) showed that 90 per cent of the allocated annual budget for NREGA had already been utilised, while the remaining funds available were sufficient to cover at most 13 days of employment per household till March 31, 2022. 

The tracker attempts to closely monitor the performance of the MG-NREGA scheme and recently released its bi-annual report which assessed the scheme from April 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021. 

Also Read: NREGA Tracker: Nearly 90 per cent of the allocated NREGA budget for 2021-22 has been used up, with 5 months of the programme still remaining

MG-NREGA is the flagship rural employment scheme of the government that guarantees 100 days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural households willing to do manual work. It came into force in February 2006 and has been a lifeline for millions of informal workers especially those who were affected due to the COVID19 pandemic.

MGNREGA Tracker stated that 90 per cent of the allocated annual budget for NREGA had already been utilised.

Findings of the NREGA tracker for this year 

In the fiscal year 2021-22, Rs 7,30,000 million was allocated as the budget for NREGA. This budget is Rs 3,85,000 million or 34 per cent less than the revised budget for 2020-21, the tracker revealed.
The pending liabilities from previous years amounted to Rs 1,71,800 million, or 23.53 per cent of the total budget allocated. 

According to the tracker, for the first six months of this financial year, 14.64 per cent of total payments are pending to be paid by the central government.

Also Read: Budget 2021: Despite growing demand for work, MGNREGA funds slashed by Rs 385 billion

States like Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal have a negative net balance of funds remaining, the tracker pointed out. It also revealed that the government had shared no data on unemployment benefits claimed or provided to workers in the Management Information System and the data has to be aggregated from panchayat level offices individually. 

Response of the Ministry of Rural Development

To clarify the matter, the ministry said in its press statement that fund release towards wage and material is a continuous process. It highlighted that there has been an increase of more than 18 per cent of funds allocation for the current financial year in comparison to the previous financial year as a budget estimate. 

As per the tracker, for the first six months of this financial year, 14.64 per cent of total payments are pending to be paid by the central government.

The ministry also stated that during the current financial year, more than Rs 637,930 million funds have been released for the implementation of the scheme and currently Rs 89, 210 million funds are available to meet the wage liability equal to the current availability. 

It also added that previous year, the Ministry of Finance had allocated Rs 500,000 million additional funds for the scheme over and above the budget estimate and it’ll provide for the additional funds this year too, if required. 

Also Read: Re 1 in Rajasthan, Re 0 in Kerala: Centre announces ‘minimal’ increase in minimum wages for MGNREGA labourers

Explaining the provision of unemployment allowances, it stated that it’s applicable for the beneficiary who was demanded work and could not be offered the work within 15 days from the demand. In cases where the work was demanded by a beneficiary who has already completed 100 days in the current financial year or died before 15 days of the date of the demand of work shall not be eligible for such allowances.  

Talking about the categorisation of wage payment to scheduled caste, schedule tribe, and others, for which the NREGA tracker claimed had led to no benefits, the ministry said that it has been introduced to accurately reflect on the ground flow of funds to various population groups and further streamlining is being undertaken. 
Also Read: Uttar Pradesh: Thousands of contractual MGNREGA workers stage protest; CM Yogi to look into their demands

State governments seek more fund allocation

As per news reports, Odisha’s Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to increase the labour budget of the state, under MG-NREGA, to 250 million person days for the year 2021-22. He cited that a significant number of returnee migrants stayed back due to the reduced level of economic activities during the Covid pandemic, in his letter addressed to the PM dated November 1. 

He also highlighted that Rs 10, 887 million liabilities were pending under the MG-NREGA scheme for Odisha. 

Read More: Labour activists demand daily wage hike for MGNREGA workers; write to PM Modi

In a similar move, Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister, MK Stalin wrote a letter to the PM asking for immediate release of funds under the employment scheme. In his letter dated November 1, he stated that the entire amount of RS 35, 242 million released by the central government to the state has been fully utilized up to September 15. Due to no further release of funds, a wage liability of Rs 11, 781 million has been created up to November 1. 

Gaon Connection survey findings on MGNREGA

Eight out of 10 rural respondents said they failed to find work under MGNREGA, as per the findings of a first-of-its-kind national rural survey carried out by Gaon Connection Insights, the data and insights arm of India’s largest rural media platform. The survey was conduced with 25,300 respondents in 179 districts across 20 states and three union territories. 

The survey also revealed that the poorest households were least likely to have benefitted from MGNREGA during the lockdown. Only 17 per cent of the poorest households reportedly got work under MGNREGA during the lockdown, whereas 24 per cent of rich households found wage-employment under the rural employment scheme. Chhattisgarh reported the highest percentage, 70 per cent, of households that found work under MGNREGA during the nationwide lockdown whereas Gujarat reported the least, at two per cent. 

Also Read : 80% rural citizens reported not getting work under MGNREGA during the COVID-19 lockdown