The Human Rights Forum (HRF) and ‘Samalochana’ on Saturday urged the State government to clear pending wages of the beneficiaries of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) immediately.
Describing the scheme as the lifeline for millions of rural households amid the economic downturn triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, they said a substantial portion of the household expenditure was being met with the MGNREGS wages.
“Andhra Pradesh has witnessed a 30% rise in the jobs provided under the scheme in 2020-21 fiscal year when compared to that of 2019-20. However, the actual demand and need for work has increased on the ground. The programme has run out of funds,” said ‘Samalochana’ convenor B. Chakradhar.
V.S. Krishna of the HRF pointed out that more than 90% of the Central allocation for the scheme had been exhausted even as about five months were left in the current financial year. “As on November 4, 2021, A.P. has wages worth ₹450 crore pending from the Centre for this financial year. The State is showing negative balance of ₹3,000 crore,” he said.
According to the rights groups, Andhra Pradesh is one of the States leading with respect to the implementation of the MGNREGS, with an annual expenditure of more than ₹10,000 crore in 2020-21 fiscal year.
Across the State, more than 1 crore workers from 71 lakh families are getting employment under the scheme. Primarily, people from the disadvantaged sections are getting the benefits, with SC, ST and BC categories getting about 83% of the employment share in 2020-21 fiscal year. The share of women in employment is about 57%.
“We urge the government to ensure adequate availability of employment and timely payment of wages. It must ensure that the pending wages from the Central government are cleared. Given the need for creating more employment in rural areas, additional allocations must be made under the MGNREGS,” said Mr. Chakradhar.
“We demand provision of at least 150 days of work for each household of beneficiaries this financial year,” said Mr. Krishna.