NREGA workers may not get unemployment allowances



New Delhi: Thousands of NREGA workers, who have been waiting for the payment of their outstanding unemployment allowances guaranteed under the Act, may not get them as their entitlements can not be established.

A high level government panel has found that the applications for demand of work submitted by NREGA workers under the Act were not "documented or dated", and the dated receipts for such applications were not issued "in most cases".

"As a result the eligibility of rural households for unemployment allowance, in these cases, was unverifiable...in the absence of recorded date of demand, the entitlement to unemployment allowances could not be easily established," Public Accounts Committee on the implementation of NREGA for the fiscal 2009-10 said in its report, recently tabled in Parliament.

As per Mahatma Gandhi NREGA, the state government is required to provide employment to a registered applicant within 15 days of demand, failing which unemployment allowance at "stipulated rates" is payable by the state governments from their fund, the Committee noted.

The Act stipulates that the rate of the allowance has to be fixed by state governments in consultation with State Councils. But, it should not be less than one-fourth of the wages for the first 30 days of unemployment and half of the wages beyond this.

"However, audit review has revealed that in 282 gram panchayats in 21 states, dated receipt of applications for demand for work were not given, and employment registers were not maintained in 329 gram panchayats in 19 states," it said.

The committee noted that undated applications and non-maintenance of employment registers "leads to a situation where the right to unemployment allowance can not be verified defeating the very purpose of the Act to provide employment guarantee".

Suggesting that proper maintenance of records at gram panchayat level needs to be given priority, the committee suggested that ministry should impress upon the state governments to appoint employment guarantee assistants (EGA) in each gram panchayat.

"EGAs would ensure that all applications are dated and dated receipts of all applications are given to the job applicants," it said.

It also suggested that ministry should "suitably" take up the matter with the state governments for ensuring "suo motu payment" of unemployment allowance to the eligible NREGA workers.

"The ministry may also consider suitable amendment to the NREG Act for partial reimbursement out of Government of India funds for payment of unemployment allowances while instituting controls to minimise need for payment of unemployment allowance by the states," it added.

While the payment of unemployment allowance is due for 21,99,558 days across the country in the current fiscal, only Uttar Pradesh government has so far made payment just for 41 days to the NREGA workers in the state where the payment of allowance is due for the rest of 3,111 days, according to figures with the rural development ministry.

PTI