New Delhi: On Saturday, Centre released its share of funds to the tune of Rs 12,230 crore to the states for the rural job flagship scheme MGNREGA, days after the Supreme Court pulled it up for not releasing adequate funds for the scheme.
Ministry sources said that this is the biggest amount for the scheme released in one go by the ministry.
In a statement, Rural Development Birender Singh said his ministry has released a central share of Rs 12,230 crore to the states in connection with the implementation of its flagship programme Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
The Minister also underlined that this fund release will take care of the pending wage liability of the states for the previous financial Year (2015-16) and help the states to run the programme during the new financial year (2016-17).
He said the government is committed to ensuring flow of adequate resources for fulfilling the programme objectives.
The Supreme Court had on Wednesday pulled up the Centre for not releasing adequate funds to states for MGNREGA and asked it to give details of expenditure on the scheme in drought-hit states, saying relief has to be provided now and not after one year.
"If you are not releasing the funds, then no one will like to work. States will say they have no funds, so they can't pay anyone for MGNREGA work. No state will make any commitment to the people," a bench headed by Justice MB Lokur had said.
Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, had, then however, informed the bench that Rs 7983 crore will be released by the Centre in a couple of days towards wage liability, while Rs 2400 crore material liability will be cleared in June.
She had said that Rs 2723 crore was being released as wage reliability for the drought affected states.
The rural development minister also rebutted reports published in a section of media that there are arrears of wages of over Rs 8000 crore under MGNREGA for the 2015-2016 financial year.
"In fact, the year 2015-16 has registered expenditure under MGNREGA to the tune of Rs 41,371 crore, which is the highest expenditure under the programme since its inception. Out of this expenditure Rs 30,139 crore has gone towards payment of wages.
"This has allowed for the highest employment generation over the past three years and the best achievement on key parameters over the last three years such as works taken up, 55 per cent women participation and 95 per cent of payments through electronic fund management system," the minister said.
The Union Minister said the ministry of Rural Development has brought large scale reforms in the implementation of the programme in such a manner that it is oriented more towards combating the agrarian distress and meet the demand for work in drought affected areas, creating durable and income generating assets mostly linked to augmentation of irrigation potential.
"In the year 2015-16, states were asked to provide employment where needed, particularly drought affected areas, with the assurance of making required resources available.
"The ministry expanded the entitlement from 100 to 150 days of work to households in drought affected regions of ten states. 20.48 lakh households in these regions have availed this opportunity and completed more than 100 days of work. At the national level 44 lakh households have completed 100 days," he said in the statement.
Criticising the government on the issue of funds, the Supreme Court had said, "Relief has to be given immediately and not after one year. Temperature is soaring to 45 degree Celsius, there is no drinking water, nothing is there. You have to do some thing and provide relief on time."
It said as per government's own figures, average workdays is 48 days, while the statute says it should be 100 days.
"The argument holds substance that since you (Centre) are not releasing the funds, states are not willing to allocate works to people under MGNREGA and hence the average workdays will fall," the bench also comprising Justice N V Ramana said.
"We should realise that there is problem. Nine states and now Rajasthan has declared drought. It is difficult to believe that there is no drought in Bundelkhand and Marathwada," the bench had said.
In the official statement, the minister also listed steps taken to bring down the delay in payment of wages and the road map of the government for the scheme.
"To further bring down the delay in payment of wages, the ministry in line with the Cabinet decision has introduced National electronic Fund Management System (NeFMS) in the current financial year.
"The road map for 2016-17 will focus on accelerating the momentum gained in employment generation while further strengthening the monitoring system," Singh said.
He also said that in 2016-17, as part of their labour budget, the states have proposed to construct 8.82 lakh farm ponds and 10.39 lakh organic compost pits to boost the agriculture sector.
The states have also proposed to construct 33 lakh Individual House Hold Latrines (IHHL) as part of Swachh Bharat Mission and 63,000 Anganwadi centre buildings to strengthen rural infrastructure, the statement said.