The New NREGA Avatar: Work Later, Bring Home Money Now
NEW DELHI: The government is likely to authorize partial advance payment of wages with the aim of restoring beneficiaries’ confidence in its flagship rural employment program. The proposal is part of a series of measures aimed at responding to growing criticism of the government-funded Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Program (MGNREGS), which is plagued by administrative deadlock and accusations of leaks.
The Ministry of Rural Development has asked states to launch a one-month pilot project in some districts or panchayats where payments are particularly delayed. Based on the comments, a system of firm advance payments can be designed. “We have asked the states to do the pilots in areas where late payments are mainly due to a lack of staff,” said an official from the Ministry of Rural Development who did not wish to be identified.
“Amounts paid in advance will be adjusted by the actual payment due each time asset measurement is completed and wages due are calculated,” the official added. Salaries are often delayed for more than six months due to banking penetration, a postal network and inadequate human resources. Delays in measuring the work done on the program and the lack of staff to handle appeal roles also lead to blocking payments at different administrative levels.
“It has been suggested that until the correspondent bank (BC) network is increased and the postal network expands to all areas of the panchayats, partial payments to workers can be considered an option,” he said. writes the Ministry of Rural Development to the Ministry of Rural Development. state governments say. In the British Columbia model, agents are used to provide services on a commission basis to increase banking penetration in rural areas.
The ministry admitted in the letter that the timely payment of salaries remains an obstacle to the successful implementation of the scheme. Although the ministry has only received 50 complaints related to non-payment of salaries under the program, it is believed that this number does not reflect the enormity of the problem as most beneficiaries do not file complaints. In most cases, payments under the pilot will likely be made through cash transfers, although the ministry’s decision does not necessarily allow direct transfer of wages in cash advance
“It’s not tied to the method of payment, but because it is an alternative to the BC model and payments by post, states will prefer direct cash transfers,” ET told a head of a state rural development department. The pilot is being launched as the ministry’s efforts to expand the reach of banks and post offices will likely take time to fully take hold.
Two months ago, the ministry issued guidelines to all states to ensure mandatory payment of wages only through bank and postal accounts. Within a month, however, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh announced that due to lack of infrastructure and human resources, the option was not feasible in all parts of the country.
The minister had therefore made a concession to the rule by authorizing the transfers of money in 60 districts affected by the Maoists of the country. Tamil Nadu is the only state where all salary payments are transferred directly in cash. The advance payment has been backed by experts like Harsh Mander, a member of the National Advisory Council, who say such a move will not only restore workers’ confidence, but also increase the rate of completion of the work.