This amount has been pending for the last five months, according to daily wage earners and activists in the state.

A group of NREGA workers involve worksImage: Charan Teja
news Rural Employment Wednesday, March 17, 2021 - 13:26

Grappling with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of rural labourers in Andhra Pradesh turned to National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) to earn a livelihood as several sectors of the economy have been affected. However, pending wages are adding to the woes of NREGA workers who mainly hail from the economically weaker sections and landless labour families.

NREGA mandates that wages should be paid within 15 days of the completion of the sanctioned work, but for the state of Andhra Pradesh, around Rs 420 crore are yet to be released. The whopping amount is pending for the last four to five months, according to daily wage earners and activists from different districts in the state.

According to the data available on the NREGA website, the release of Rs 303.88 crore is pending, while the payment requests for Rs 115.83 crore are yet to be approved.

Chakradhar Buddha, program manager at Libtech India, a team of engineers, social workers and social scientists working for the rural communities and poverty elimination, said that though the number of total working days people are putting in under NREGA has increased in the backdrop of COVID-19, the payments are seeing a delay.

Chakradhar said, "Following COVID-19, the number of job cards and people working has also increased as other livelihood sources dried up. But for three months now, the delay is affecting the labourers. In their latest response on the matter, the Union government said it is going to clear the old arrears.”

According to Chakradhar, in Andhra, around 3.3 lakh new workers have enrolled under NREGA. He added that disbursing wages in a timely manner would ease financial burden on those whose livelihoods have been affected.

Ambedkarism Punadi, a rural organization based in Visakhapatnam, working towards the timely release of the wages of NREGA workers and other rights of the workers, said that it has been three-four months that workers are not getting the wages regularly. A representative from the organisation, Rajana Bujji, said that in his village of Munagapaka, of the 800 NREGA workers, most have not received wages for the days they have worked.

Rajana said, "The delay in wage disbursal is a regular practice, but this time it has been nearly four months that most of the workers have not got wages. We have approached the officials but are saying that the funds are not being released from the top."

It was in February that the Union government had disbursed Rs 51.75 crore towards the sanctioned working days. However, according to activists, the amount will go into clear old arrears, leaving the new dues again pending.

In a response to a question by YSRCP MP Bala Shouri on the pending wages in the Parliament, Union Minister for Rural Development Narendra Singh Tomar said that the government is committed to clear the pending wages.

According to sources close to the State Employment Guarantee Scheme (SEGS), the officials have been sending the payment proposals for the number of working days for which work was undertaken under the NREGA. SEGS officials in the Andhra government remained unavailable for comment on the matter.

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