Apprehending that the cash-starved SAD-BJP government in Punjab might be diverting funds under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for running its day-to-day affairs, union information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari on Saturday alleged that the state government had been delaying the wages to be paid under the scheme within 15 days by months together.
In a statement issued here, Tewari said the union ministry for rural development had taken a serious view of the issue and union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh had written to chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, drawing his attention to the lapse.
"It appears the state government is diverting the funds that it gets from the central government under the MGNREGA as otherwise there is no reason why the wages should be delayed by months together when these must be paid within 15 days," the minister said.
Tewari said the Punjab government had delayed over 55% of the wages, amounting to over Rs. 55 crore, till January beyond the stipulated time period. He said this was apparently because the state government was diverting the funds allocated by the Centre for various public welfare schemes like MGNREGA for other purposes. He said payments to the tune of over Rs. 10 crore had been delayed by more than two months.
He said Ramesh, in his letter to Badal, had expressed concern over the delay in payment of wages under the MGNREGA. "Shockingly, in Punjab the wages have been delayed by over two months," Tewari said, while quoting from the figures furnished by the union rural development ministry.