Payments to workers under rural job scheme to be expedited


New Delhi : Rural Development Minister C.P. Joshi Monday said the government was taking steps to cut delay in payment to workers under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).

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Inaugurating the 10th Editors Conference on Social Sector Issues here, the minister admitted that the government had not been able to properly address the issue of delayed payments.

“We are in touch with stakeholders to reduce the gap,” he said, adding that his ministry was trying to work out a method to ensure that a NREGA beneficiary was paid seven days of earned wages within 16 days.

Joshi said payments were being delayed by over a month and that de-motivated the targeted beneficiaries.

According to him, 15 crore job cards have been made under NREGA but only five crore people have opted to work under the scheme, which assures 100 days of manual work to every rural household in a year.

He also accused the states of not doing enough to delegate powers to Panchayati Raj institutions.

“There is need for decentralisation of powers to strengthen the Panchayati Raj system,” the minister said, adding that projects under NREGA often decided by project officers instead of panchayats.

Joshi said the outlay for NREGA was Rs.40,000 crore, but there were complaints of financial irregularities of about Rs.7.32 crore.

Denying that NREGA had led to the agricultural labour strength falling in some states, the minister argued that states had to offer better rates than the daily wage of Rs.100 paid under the central scheme.

In this connection, Joshi also said NREGA has been amended to include work on land belonging to small and marginal farmers under the scheme.

Similarly, he said, the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) was being revamped to enhance opportunities of employment.

On complaints that a section of the poor was excluded from below the poverty line (BPL) list, Joshi said the government was working on a proposal to include Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities in rural areas in the BPL category and exclude those who had land and other entitlements.