Karnataka may fall short of its target to generate 12 crore person days under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) due to delay in release of funds, including wage payments, from the Centre, senior officials said. If the funds do not to come in, it would be the first time since 2017-18 that Karnataka is likely to see a shortfall in achieving its projected target in generating person days.
The lack of jobs, or timely wages, under the scheme are exacerbating the problem for people depending on MNREGA to earn a livelihood. This comes amid subdued agricultural activity in the state following the devastating floods last year and the economic slowdown, making jobs much harder to find.
Data from the Rural Development and Panchayath Raj (RDPR) shows that Karnataka managed to generate about 9.14 crore person days so far and will have to create around 2.86 crore person days in the remaining 70 days of the current financial year ending March to achieve its target.
“We can create around 1.4 crore man days at the current rate of 2 lakh man days per day being created on average now," said one senior official from the RDPR department on condition of anonymity. By that account, Karnataka would fall short of around 1.5 crore man days this year, the official added.
“Now in the absence of any funds, even if you put people into jobs or ask them to start work on MNREGA, we will not be able to pay them in 15 days as mandated (by the Act). That way it sets us back on addressing of the distress mitigation," the official said.
Wages have been delayed since 8 October last year, the official said.
“Today, I have no money to pay them and that affects the aim of the scheme," he said, adding that an impetus of funds can help the department get closer to its target in February and March, in which demand typically increases.
The Centre, apart from other pending dues in devolution, goods and services tax (GST) and flood relief amounting to thousands of crores, is yet to pay dues of ₹1,257 crore to Karnataka in MNREGA only for this year and a total of ₹2,718 crore pending since 2016.
Out of the ₹5,278 crore that Karnataka is estimated to receive under the scheme, only ₹4,780 crore has so far been released, another official said. The ₹4,780 crore includes adjustments against previous years.
The delay in releasing funds to Karnataka is impacting its budget preparations as it faces a shortfall of a few thousand crores. Karnataka has seen little or no governance in almost two years in which it has seen political turmoil take precedence over pressing concerns like the agrarian distress, floods and relief and lack of any long-term policy to address the issues of farmers other than the loan waiver announced by the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led coalition government.
Apart from the ₹4,000 announced in addition to the ₹6,000 given by the Centre under the Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana, the B.S. Yediyurappa-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has also been preoccupied by political developments that has put governance and policy making on the backburner.
Krishna Byre Gowda, former minister and Congress leader, said the new government’s only aim was to freeze and cancel orders (infrastructure and other projects) and not replacing them with other schemes. This, in turn, will impact expenditure.
“There is a six month delay in booking of expenditure. So whatever expenditure is being incurred in the month of December is six months old. The delay will manifest itself only in the month of March," he said.