The Centre has not paid MGNREGA wages in Bengal for a year - Nachiket Deuskar
The right to work has been suspended in the state as a result of a political battle over upcoming elections.
People working under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in West Bengal have not been paid their wages for more than a year now with the Union government stopping the payment of funds. Bengal is the only state impacted by this stoppage, Scroll.in reports. MGNREGA is a national social security scheme meant to guarantee at least 100 days of unskilled manual work in a year.
The non payment of wages by the Centre is being seen as an outcome of the bitter tussle between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamool Congress ahead of the local body elections in the state later this year. The result of MGNREGA stoppage has been a rise in food insecurity and women’s unemployment, point out experts.
The last wage instalment to workers in the state was disbursed on December 26, 2021, according to NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, a rights group for MGNREGA workers. The Union government has since withheld the release of more than Rs 7,500 crore worth of MGNREGA funds to West Bengal, the rights group said. Of this, the workers’ pending wages amount to Rs 2,744 crore. Nikhil Dey, founding member of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, a civil rights group, suggests more than 1 crore workers have been affected.
The Union government has cited alleged corruption at the state government level and invoked Section 27 of the act to block the disbursement of funds. The law allows the Union government to stop the funding and investigate alleged improper usage of funds meant for MGNREGA if it receives complaints. Both the BJP and the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress are blaming each other for the stalemate over MGNREGA wage payments. The state BJP has played up allegations of corruption and misuse of MGNREGA funds by the Trinamool Congress’ state government to claim that the blocking of funding by the BJP-led Union government is justified.
On the other hand, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on January 2 that she had raised the MGNREGA dues matter with Union ministers after having previously written to the prime minister thrice. In November too, Banerjee had said it was the state’s right to access the funds. Trinamool Congress leader and Lok Sabha member Abhishek Banerjee has accused the BJP of “wilfully depriving” the people of West Bengal for “rejecting them”, referring to the saffron party’s defeat at the hands of his party in the 2021 assembly election.
Rights groups criticise the fact that the right to work scheme is being held hostage to partisan politics. Anuradha Talwar from the Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity said that not paying workers for the work they have done is like bonded labour, no matter what corruption has happened. The workers are being punished, she added.
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Nitin Deuskar, Scroll.in, January 10, 2023, https://scroll.in/article/1041183/why-the-centre-has-not-paid-mgnrega-wages-in-bengal-for-a-year
Tagged with: Corruption NREGA NREGS Politics West Bengal