Following the central government's move to reduce funding for projects under the National Rural Guarantee Act (NREGA) in Himachal, the state is struggling keep the scheme afloat. The state has over 1.1 million rural job card holders of which around 700,000 are active ones.
Though the state government raised a bill of over `600 crore for NREGA expenditure while the central government had so far allocated over `300 crore. The government now has liabilities of around `80 crore including wages and other material expenditure. In fiscal 2012-2013 45,933 projects were completed while in the current fiscal (2014-15) the number of projects completed under the scheme was over 26,000.
The government's NREGA website revealed that owing to fiscal crunch, wages of `134.32 crore was delayed from 15 to 90 days of which wages amounting to `7.30 crore were delayed for more than 90 days in the state. The funds crunch has hampered several developmental projects linked with NREGA. "We don't have funds for road repair but could be done under NREGA, but the cash strapped scheme is unable to do so," said an official, requesting anonymity.
Rural development department director Ajay Sharma said the fiscal crunch had adversely affected the scheme in the state. "Several projects are stalled for want of money, we're expecting due installments of `70 crore soon," he said.
However in Himachal, a NREGA worker is paid much than others who get almost double the wages if they work on farms or elsewhere. "A job under NREGA is secure job but in terms of wages I get ` 300 per day for working in an apple orchard," said Jeetu Ram, a NREGA worker from Narkanda developmental block of Shimla district.
Government records also say there were around 56,150 projects under NREGA of which 47178 are running behind schedule. 47178 projects under MNREGA was running behind schedule by over 90 days, 2619 projects behind schedule by two to three months and the delay could be attributed to the funds crisis.
During his recent visit to New Delhi, Himachal rural development minister Anil Sharma met higher officials in the ministry and raised issues pertaining to NREGA funds.
"Under NREGA the state is paying 154 as daily wages, while the minimum daily wages notified in the scheme is 170. According to government statistics, from the 1.17 million job card holders covering 540,000 households in the state, nearly 55,429 households completed the 100-day NREGA programme. Disparity in wages is also a liability on the state that needs to be cleared," Sharma had said.
2014-15 2013-14 2012-13
Households completed 100 Days of Wage Employment 10,472 55,437 40,416
Total Households Worked [In Lakhs] 4 5.39 5.15
Wages (in crore) 224.54 379.59 320.47
Wages Liability (in Lakhs) 3769.75 28.94 23.26