Unpaid NREGS Wages Reach Thousands of Crores

November 24, 2021 0 By Yatharth

M Aseem

The very government which loses no time at all to announce bail out packages giving concessions of thousands and lakhs of crores rupees for domestic and foreign capitalists takes months to pay the wages of the poor distressed laborers working in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). The very government which refers to so many legal provisions whenever even a small relief is demanded for working class, here cannot recall the NREGS law which provides that wages for work done must be paid within 15 days and thereafter compensation of 0.05% of the total amount due must be paid for each day of delay.

It is noteworthy that the wage rate in NREGA is extremely low and the minimum wage rates announced by the Centre and the states themselves are not adhered to in this scheme and the wage rate is much less. It can very well be understood that how much under distress the workers working in this scheme are as they get wages below subsistence level, else they wouldn’t opt to work for wages if any other employment was available. Withholding for months the wages for the work done by such poor labourers should be considered an unforgivable crime.

Currently the states have a negative balance of Rs 10,342 crores in the wage payment fund for NREGS and there is a huge delay in payment of wages. Out of the work done between April and September 2021, 7% wages, i.e., Rs 2850 crores is still pending payment as the Central Government has not yet given approval for payment. In Andhra Pradesh, half the amount has not been paid yet, while in Uttarakhand 37% and in Arunachal Pradesh 33% of the wage amount is still overdue. However, if we look at the quantum of funds, the highest amount is overdue in West Bengal followed by Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

In NREGA, the entire responsibility of the payment of wages is that of the Central Government, while 75% of the amount for the material used in the work is to be borne by the Central and 25% by the State Government. Owing to the Covid lockdown, a large number of workers have become unemployed and NREGS work is the last resort for them to survive. While the appropriate response should have been removal of cap of 100 days a year for guaranteed work and immediate payment of wages, this government is withholding the wages for months forcing workers to starvation.

On the other hand, capitalists with assets worth lakhs of crores have not only been given exemption in paying taxes and fees in the name of relief, they are also being given huge amount worth of lakhs of crore rupees in the name of economic incentive to bail them out of the crisis.