While the Centre's recent decision to increase the number of workdays under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) has brought cheer to the tribal residents of rural areas in the state, the grim reality is that the wages are not always paid in time.
In what amounts to gross violation of basic entitlement, payment of wages amounting to Rs. 127.5 crore to workers was delayed by 15 to 90 days in the current fiscal, according to data collated by the central rural development department.
In 2013-14, transactions amounting to nearly Rs. 82,222.17 crore were made, of which those totaling Rs. 127.52 crore have been delayed. On the other hand, the Himachal Pradesh government has claimed that nearly 4,96,198 job card holders in the state got jobs under the scheme.
Further, payment of wages amounting to Rs. 10.7 crore has been delayed by over 90 days, even as MNREGA regulations specify that the payment should be made within 15 days.
The payment of Rs. 12.92-crore wages was delayed for 60 to 90 days, while payment of wages totaling Rs. 33.25 crore was late by 30 to 60 days, and those amounting to Rs. 70.65 crore delayed by 15 to 30 days, according to the data.
Statistics maintained by the government show that five districts of the total 12 reported delays in payment of Rs. 10 crore in wages. The payment of wages amounting to Rs. 34.88 crore was delayed by 15 to 90 days in Mandi district, while Rs. 28 crore was delayed in Chamba district.
In Kangra district, the payment of Rs. 18.53 crore was delayed, and Rs. 10.46 crore was delayed in Sirmour district. In Shimla, the payment of `11.85 crore was delayed for the current fiscal.
As per the data, there were 1,17,2531 job card holders in the state. Of the total 11,83,633 registered households, 11,72,531 have job cards. Moreover, of the 5,59,669 job seekers under MNREGA, 4,96,158 have been provided with employment. The data also shows that 32,993 households completed 100 days' work under MNREGA.
Himachal Pradesh Rural Development Department deputy director BD Sharma claimed, "To minimise delay, the government recently switched over to e-fund management system so that people could get their wages directly in their accounts."
However, he added, "There may be a little delay due to technical up-grade."
Panchayati raj principal secretary Upma Chawdhry claimed that the payment of wages was delayed "not because of the department's negligence, but due to difficult situations, especially in hilly states". "Due to varying topographical conditions, sometimes it became difficult to upload muster rolls within the time specified in the act," she said, adding that the union government had been urged to adapt the guidelines for every scheme for hilly states.