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Reduced by 34%, five months to go, 90% NREGA budget used up: Advocacy group

By Our Representative 

The rural jobs advocacy group, People's Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), has taken strong exception to the Government of India reducing the total budget for implementing schemes under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in the FY 2021-22, which “is 34% less than the budget for the previous year, even though the effects of Covid-19 have not abated.”
Pointing out that almost 90% of the allocated budget for the current financial year has been “used up till now, with five months of the programme still remaining”, releasing its new NREGA tracker on wage payments, it particularly noted, “The remaining funds can cover at most 13 days of employment per household for the rest of the year.”
The PAEG tracker is an attempt to monitor NREGA performance by making some key data available in an accessible manner. It is based on publicly available data from the NREGA Management Information System (MIS). Through this effort, it hopes to generate public interest in monitoring it, prompt further reporting and organise workers to demand and access their entitlements.
The sharp reduction in NREGA budget comes, according to PAEG, at a time when the number of persons seeking jobs under the scheme has been going up each year. Thus, “A total of 7.75 crore households were provided work in the financial year (FY) 2020-21. This is an increase of over 41% from the number of households provided with work in 2019-20.”
It added, “In 2020-21, a total of 389 crore persondays of work was generated, an increase of more than 53% compared to the previous year”, yet, it complained, “In the FY 2021-22 the Central government has reduced NREGA budget allocation despite the evident importance of NREGA during the first wave and the devastating economic impact of the second wave.”
Suggesting poor management of NREGA funds, PAEG said, “Around 24% of the total allocated budget for the FY 2021-22 is being spent to clear pending payments of last year”, noting, in the current financial year many rural workers are unable to get jobs under NREGA, even though they demand for it.
The remaining funds can cover at most 13 days of employment per household for the rest of the current financial year
Thus, while data suggest that “198.33 crore persondays of work have been generated in the first half of this FY”, which is “a decrease of around 26% when compared to the same period of last year”, the fact is, “Out of the total persondays of employment that were projected to be generated, only 91% has been generated”. Also, “13% of the total households that demanded employment did not get employment.”
Futher, according to PAEG, “Out of the total households employed under NREGA, only around 6% of households were employed for 81-99 days whereas only around 2% were completed 100 days”, adding, “For the first six months of the year, around 15% of total payments are pending to be paid by the Government of India.”
Interestingly, NREGA mismanagement has been happening “even though the Ministry of Rural Development and State Governments report that social audits are happening on the ground, concurrent social audit reports are still not available in the public domain in violation of the Auditing Standards of Social Audit as laid down by the Comptroller and Auditor Genernal of India”, said PAEG.

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