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Govt of India 'eliminating' rural jobs scheme: Allocation one third of NREGA demand

By Our Representative 

Ahead of the presentation of the Union budget, the civil rights networks Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG) and NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (NSM), have claimed that an estimated Rs 2,71,862 crore would be required as a budgetary allocation for FY 2023-24 for implementing of the rural jobs scheme under the provisions of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) if all the workers who worked in the current year were to be given 100 days of work.
Even as focusing on other issues affecting NREGA such as social audits, wage delays and the National Mobile Monitoring System (NMMS) app, the statement asserted that work and payment of wages under NREGA, which have been stopped for more than a year in West Bengal under the garb of corruption, must be resumed immediately.
Talking to media while releasing the statement, Nikhil Dey of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, said, if the government sees NREGA as a demand-based programme, and according to the law, the labourers must get 100 days of work on the basis of demand, then the budget of NREGA for the year 2023-2024 should be Rs 2,73,000 crore.
At present, he said, the budget allocated for NREGA which is Rs 73,000 crore, less than one-third of the required amount for NREGA. Due to the non-allocation of sufficient funds for NREGA, the work demand of NREGA workers is not being met by States. In this way we see that NREGA workers are being punished as well as ignored by the Central government.
Ashish Ranjan of the Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, Bihar, drew the attention to how the Central government is trying to eliminate NREGA through continuous changes. Instead of this, the Centre should focus on doing structural reforms in NREGA, and should focus on such states where administration is not so strong through which NREGA can operate successfully.
For its effective implementation, he said, the administrative system should focus on resolving the issue of unfilled panchayat office positions in states over the years. About 40% of such posts are vacant in Bihar, which should be filled immediately. Instead of improving such structure, the government is engaged in re-evaluation of NREGA, behind which the intention is to create hurdles for NREGA.
Stating that the government has not paid wages in West Bengal for one year by making the issue of corruption, he noted, “On the other hand, under the leadership of Amarjit Sinha, a committee has been formed, which will investigate the states which are in the most poor category for NREGA”, apprehending, “NREGA can be obstructed in the same way as it has been done in West Bengal, by making an issue that more money is being spent in one State as compared to other States.”
Annie Raja of the National Federation for Indian Women highlighted the importance of the process of social audit provisioning under NREGA, and how it has proven to be a compromise to eliminate corruption in NREGA. 
% of initial budget spent in clearing past dues
For this, she gave examples of successful social audits done in the early days, criticising the Central government for not allocating any budget for social audit. Yet, she complained, without doing social audit, the Centre is accusing States of corruption for not giving money, which is completely contradictory.
Vijay from PAEG, talking about the ongoing havoc of the NMMS app, said, not only the government does not pay the workers for the work done on time, it is seeking to make attendance mandatory through the NMMS app, which makes it mandatory for workers to have Android mobiles. It is like a double whammy on the workers.
On the other hand, he added, there is no system to register attendance offline as an alternative to online attendance, due to which attendance missed due to lack of network in rural areas is not recorded again. In this way, a large number of labourers are being deprived of their right to work.
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Click here for the detailed statement, here for video testimonies

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