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Lack of adequately budgeted funds: 93% of wage payments 'delayed' in January

By Our Representative
Demanding “adequate budget” for schemes under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha has revealed that, as on January 17, 2020, 93% of wage payments were pending for the month, pointing out, “Every financial year, from the third quarter onwards, the funds for NREGA dry up” and “work slows down and delays in wage payments escalate.”
In a statement released ahead of the Union budget, the Morcha has demanded “adequate budget for NREGA for 2020-21”, noting, “Every year, about 20% of the NREGA budget is used to clear arrears. This cycle keeps continuing and adversely affects workers in the peak NREGA season in the final quarter of the financial year.”
Insisting on “budgetary allocation for NREGA” adequate enough to meet the “legal guarantee of 100 days of work for every rural household” and “work and timely payment of wages”, the Morcha said, “Providing resources to improve NREGA will be helpful for the economy in general. NREGA wages would increase disposable income in rural areas. This in turn will boost demand and increase consumption.”
Accusing the BJP government at the Centre for “intentionally ignoring” NREGA year after year, the Morcha said, “While the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) claims to have made progress in timely wage payments, large delays in wage payments still plague the programme.”
Quoting a recent article by a former secretary, MoRD, it says, “75% of payments are credited in 15 days”, though pointing out, official figures also suggest that once funds “start drying up in October, this ratio falls significantly.”
“Additionally”, it adds, “Despite calculating delays made by the centre in depositing wages, the delays made by the centre is not added to calculate delay compensation. The Centre must fix accountability on the agencies that cause the delays and ensure that workers are compensated for the full duration of the delay in the crediting of wages to their bank account.”
The statement further points towards “stagnating wage rates”, pointing out, “The government's decision to index the wage rate to the Consumer Price Index - Rural (CPI-R) as opposed to the older Consumer Price Index - Agricultural Labourers (CPI-AL) is a welcome move”, yet the fact is, “It has made such an announcement many times in the past and has not acted on it.”
“Also”, it says, “The change in index will lead to a very meagre increase in NREGA wages since they are very low to begin with. The new indexation will be meaningful if the NREGA wages are at least at par with the minimum wages in the states.”

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