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NREGA 'undermined': 2022-23 budget to give just a fifth of guaranteed rural jobs

By Our Representative 

The top advocacy group for rural labour, Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), has estimated that the Government of India (GoI) budgetary allocation for financial year (FY) 2022-23 of just Rs 73,000 crore would generate only 21 persondays of work per household under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) as against the legal provision of 100 persondays. 
In a media release, it said, NREGA is especially crucial in times of rural economic distress, pointing out, in its pre-budget statement PAEG had estimated that at least Rs 2.64 lakh crore would have to be allocated for NREGA in FY 2022-23, if 100 days of work are to be provided to the households that were employed in FY 2021-22, at a wage rate equal to Rs 269.
On top of this, PAEG had estimated that FY 2021-22 would end with pending liabilities of over Rs 21,000 crore, it said, regretting, “Since 2015-16, the annual budget allocation has never been sufficient to provide work to all those seeking employment under the programme.”
“In fact”, it said, “Every year about 80-90% of the budget gets exhausted within the first 6 months, resulting in heavy slowdown of work on the ground”, and the government “has not been able to provide employment to all active job card holding families due to inadequate budget allocation.”
PAEG said, “Out of the current budget allocation, about Rs 18,350 crore are pending liabilities from previous years. Therefore, only about Rs 54,650 crore is available for next year. If the government wants to provide legal guarantee of work to all the active job card holding households, which is 9.94 crore then considering the current budgetary estimate, it will only be able to provide some 16 days at per person per day average cost of Rs 334.”
It commented, “We are deeply pained that the programme is systematically undermined by ridiculously low budget allocation of 73,000 crore. In this context, it is crucial to analyse the functioning and outcomes of NREGA and to scrutinise the government's implementation of the Act. Analysing data from the current year can give a picture of what FY 2022-23 holds for NREGA.”
Thus, it said, “As on January 31, the net balance of NREGA funds was at a deficit of Rs 15,190 crore. Wage payments to the value of Rs 3,273 crore, involving around 2 crore wage transactions, had been delayed. 298.86 crore persondays of work had been generated.”
It added, “11% of households that demanded work under NREGA were not provided employment under the Act. Less than 5% of households had been employed for 100 days or more. The amount of compensation owed to workers for delayed payment of wages, and the value of rejected transactions were also significant, at Rs 11.78 crores and Rs 816.63 crore respectively.”

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