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Centre 'fails to pay' Rs 74 crore to Andhra rural workers: NREGA wage transfer delay

By Rajiv Shah 

A non-profit group consisting of engineers, social workers, and social scientists – calling themselves “liberation technology” enthusiasts – has regretted for the Central government is taking 26 days on an average to complete wage transfers to Andhra Pradesh workers employed under the rural jobs scheme of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).
Suggesting the delayed payments phenomenon is not just confined to so-called Bimaru states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar, a report by the non-profit, LibTech India, which is part of the Collaborative Research and Dissemination, New Delhi, says, the delay is a clear violation of Section 3(3) of Mahatma Gandhi NREGA Act, 2005, under which NREGA workers are entitled to receive their wages within a fortnight of the date of closure of the muster roll.
The NREGA payment process broadly consists of two stages. After the work is completed, a Fund Transfer Order (FTO) is generated and digitally sent to the Centre. This is called Stage 1 and is the State government’s responsibility. The Centre then processes the FTOs and transfers wages directly to the workers’ accounts. This is called Stage 2, which is entirely the Centre’s responsibility.
As per the Act, Stage 1 must be completed in eight days and Stage 2 must be completed within seven days after that. Stage 1 and Stage 2 together should therefore be completed within 15 days of the closure of a muster of work.
In order to find out the ground reality in Andhra Pradesh, LibTech India researchers randomly sampled 1% of panchayats in Andhra Pradesh (130 of 12,956 panchayats), downloading wage payments details for all the job cards that appeared for work in the current financial year up to July 31, 2021 from an Andhra Pradesh government site.
Based on the data, they calculated the difference between the date of FTO generation (transaction date-date on which the FTO is sent from State to Centre) and the date of credit to see how long each transaction took in Stage 2 of the payment process.
“Out of 3.95 lakh downloaded transactions for which the FTO was sent to the Centre, 34% transactions were still unpaid as on August 10, 2021”, the report says, adding, “Thus, we analysed 2.58 lakh transactions which were paid across the 130 panchayats.”
The analysis of the data, according to the report, shows that “in the current financial year (FY), the Centre is taking an average of 26 days to process wage payments. Adding the average time taken during Stage 1, the total time taken to credit wages becomes 29 days, a gross violation of the Act, which states payments must be completed within 15 days.” It adds, “As of August 10, 2021,34% (of 3.95 lakh) transactions were still unpaid.”
The calculations also show that “less than 20% of credited payments only have been completed within the stipulated 15-day time period so far this FY”, the report asserts, adding, “Nearly 3% of transactions have taken more than 2 months to get processed. For the transactions that are still pending, nearly half have experienced a delay of 30+ days already.”
Non-acknowledgement and non-payment of delay compensation is in direct violation of the MGNREG Act, and of the Supreme Court order
According to the report, “The Centre has taken more than thrice the time to process payments this year (25.82 days) as compared to last year (6.78 days). Last year, with the pandemic, the Centre was processing payments in less than seven days. However, this year with the second wave, the time taken is intolerably high.”
Considering the huge return of workers from urban to rural areas during the pandemic, the report says, the number of persondays generated between April and July has in fact increased to 20.09 crore this year from 19.12 crore last year. “As the pandemic continues and demand for MGNREGA increases, timely payments are a priority”, it comments.
As for delayed compensation, a legal provision, the report says, it is “not calculated at all” either for Stage 1 or Stage 2. It adds, “Considering that most of the payments experience some amount of delay, this means workers are not getting a lot of compensation they are legally owed. Extrapolating the delay proportions for all of Andhra Pradesh, the, actual compensation due will be Rs 26 crore for FY 21-22 (April-July), Rs 12 crore for FY 20-21, and Rs 36 crore for FY 19-20.”
“This non-acknowledgement and non-payment of delay compensation is in direct violation of the MGNREG Act, and of the Supreme Court order dated May 18, 2018 in the Swaraj Abhiyan v Union of India case, which stated that the Centre must calculate the delay and pay compensation to the workers for the full extent of delays (Stage 1 + Stage 2)”, the report underlines.
Under the NREGA, compensation should be paid at the rate of 0.05% of the unpaid wages per day in case the payment of wages is not made within 15 days from the date of closure of muster roll. 

Comments

Anonymous said…
It is high time someone in the executive/legislative branch announcec that they are above the law. That way the courts won't waste time passing good judgements which are brazenly ignored.

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