RDD creates liability worth Rs 600 cr under MGNREGA in J&K, fails to clear even in 4 yrs

Gopal Sharma
JAMMU, Dec 4: Liability created by the Rural Development Department (RDD) towards payment of the wages of the labour class and the material used in various development works during last 4 years under MGNREGA Scheme, has reached up to Rs 600 crores in Jammu and Kashmir, forcing Sarpanches and Panches to come on the roads and launch hunger strike.
Official sources told the Excelsior that apart from current financial year, this liability on account of material supplied by various agencies, private parties and payments of wages to the labour class, is pending for the last about four years under various works initiated across the Jammu Kashmir under MGNREGA in the rural Blocks and various Panchayats. The liability component is less in Kashmir, say around Rs 150 crore while in Jammu division it is nearly Rs 450 crores. The official figures compiled from various districts of Jammu region and Kashmir have projected this total old liability amount in the Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh as around Rs 600 crore.
Sources revealed that as per the guidelines of the Union Ministry of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, the labourers engaged on various works under MGNREGA in Panchayats/ Blocks must get their wages maximum by 14 days, but officials of RDD, in sheer violation of standing Govt norms and Labour Laws, have failed to make payments to the labour class even after four years. The members of the labour class supported by Sarpanches and Panches, have been protesting at various places across the region including Kishtwar, Rajouri, Poonch, Udhampur, Jammu etc , demanding release of their pending wages but State Administration has remained unmoved.
A senior RDD official disclosed that some money was released twice during current financial year by the Administrative Department to various Blocks with a rider not to make old payments under MGNREGA. The concerned DDOs have been directed to clear liability of only current financial year. With this, there was strong resentment among the members of the labour class and other agencies/ firms which have supplied material for various works, but they have been denied their payments for the last several years.
The performance of MGNREGA works during this financial years in many districts has also remained very low as compared to previous years for the reason best known to the officers at the helm of affairs.
Data compiled from various districts of the region has indicated that though focus of the RDD officers was to clear wage liability on priority but even then this component was whopping. Wrong entries, violations in wage-material ratio said to have created this huge liability for the Department.
The previous PDP-BJP Government focused much on raising assets rather than providing employment to poor under MGNREGA and it ultimately, disturbed the wage-material ratio. The Government of India said to have been sending huge amount in Rural Development sector every year. Huge money remained unspent some times and officers fail to utilize the full amount, then piling up of such huge liability is something surprising, sources said.
Data compiled from the RDD has revealed that in district Kishtwar, liability created by the concerned RDD officers was to the tune of Rs 90 crores pending till date on account of labour as well as material component. Out of the total, nearly Rs 40 crore amount pertains to labour class while about Rs 50 crore material component. No fresh liability of current financial year was pending in the district.
The liability of district Jammu has gone up to Rs 84 crores including wage, material and administrative expenses. In district Poonch, the pending MGNREGA liability was to the tune of Rs 39 crore. While labour component was worth Rs 28 crores, Rs 11 crore pertained to material.
In district Kathua, the liability was to the tune of around Rs 35 crores. While wage component was nearly Rs 12 crore, the rest pertained to material part. Rs 5 core said to have been provided by the Government during financial year under MGNREGA to the district but not for clearing old liability. The liability created in Barnoti, Marheen, Mahanpur, Keedian Gandyal and Nagrota Gujru is the highest in the districts.
In Reasi district including entire Mahore Sub Division, the MGNREGA liability is worth Rs 42 crore. The Government released some amount as wage liability during last month. In Udhampur district also the liability is around Rs 35 crore. The department was said to have released a peanut amount to clear the wage liability during this week.
The data further indicated that in district Rajouri the liability has piled up to Rs 55 crore while it was around Rs 43 crores in district Poonch with major pendency in Mendhar, Mankote and Surankote blocks. Out of the total in Poonch, Rs 13 crore pertained to material while Rs 30 crore amount belongs to labour component.
In Ramban district, the MGNREGA liability has gone up to Rs 26 crore and out of the total the material component is worth Rs 14 crores while rest Rs 12 crore pertained to labour component. There was no fresh liability. Similarly in Doda, the liability has reached up to Rs 27 crore while in nine blocks of Samba district it was just Rs 7 crores.
Director Rural Development Department, Jammu, Sudershan Kumar when asked how this huge liability has been generated and what steps are being taken to clear the same, stated that this liability is not new. He said there was no fresh MGNREGA liability of the current year. It has been created due to disturbing wage-material ratio by some officials in the past.
The Department was doing its best to clear the same and some money was also released recently. He said the liability figure is not Rs 1000 crore as being projected by the Sarpanches and their representatives. All the district heads have been asked to provide clear picture so that matter could be taken up with the Government, he added.
Additional Secretary to Govt, Rural Development Department (Member Secy-MGNREGA, J&K), RK Badyal while contesting the figures of liability created under MGNREGA Scheme as projected by AJKPC representatives said, the figure is not so high. He said in Kashmir division alone, it is hardly Rs 125 crore while it would be around Rs 390 or maximum Rs 400 crores in Jammu and Kashmir. Badyal said there is no fresh liability of this year. Entire amount is clear up to November 30, 2019.
When asked about the non-payment of labour class since long in violation of standing guidelines, Badyal said in many cases, the labour amount has not been projected in MIS (online system) by the officials concerned. The amount, weather it was labour or material component projected on- line, was released by the Central Govt immediately.
There was massive violation in various districts in Wage: Material component which otherwise should be 60:40. But in many cases it was 20: 80 or even more. That is the major reason behind it. The Central Govt was reluctant to release violation amount. Even then the matter has been taken up with the State Administration. The concerned BDOs and ACDs have been asked to provide the exact picture of liability so that it could be placed before the Government for release of funds, he added.
Badyal further said during this financial year Rs 238 crore were released in favour of various BDOs for making payments under MGNREGA. Due to internet shutdown, the online payment process has been affected across Kashmir and Jammu regions. It also caused delay in making payments by the Department, he added.