The state versus Centre tussle seems to have put the Bengal MGNREGA workers in the lurch as the Centre has claimed that funds for Bengal stopped due to non-compliance with directives of the central government while the state panchayat minister denies knowledge of it, adding that the chief minister Mamata Banerjee has asked all departments to ensure allotment of 100 days’ work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). A report by The Statesman on Sunday highlighted that the Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity raised an alarm over a food security crisis affecting the MGNREGA workers in three districts, namely Purulia, South 24- Parganas, and Nadia. It demanded the Bengal government set up a provisional fund of Rs 3,500 crore to ensure workers have jobs and wages.
The fund issue, however, grew murkier with the minister of state, ministry of rural development, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, informing the parliament, “Funds of state of West Bengal have been stopped as per provision of Section 27 of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 due to noncompliance of directives of central government.” In the current fiscal 2022- 23, an amount of Rs 34,847 crore was released to the states/UTs except West Bengal. Sources alleged that funds for the scheme were spent by the state on works that don’t qualify under the Act and weren’t replaced either. The West Bengal panchayat minister, Pulak Roy told The Statesman, today, that he is not aware of the Centre’s reply on fund stoppage. “I have not read the reply. I cannot comment on what the central government has said.
The Centre stopped sending funds from 26 December 2021. After that, no money reached the state. We have asked the central government to clear funds,” the minister said. Commenting on whether he is aware of the plight of the 100-day workers, he said, “The matter is being dealt with at the chief minister’s level. Mamata Banerjee has already asked all departments to ensure that jobs are cleared for these 100-day workers. The state is discussing measures to guarantee the job security of these 100-day workers.” Section 27 of the MGNREGA says “the central government may, on receipt of any complaint regarding the issue or improper utilisation of funds granted under this Act in respect of any Scheme, if prima facie satisfied that there is a case, cause an investigation into the complaint made by any agency designated by it and if necessary, order stoppage of the release of funds to the Scheme and institute appropriate remedial measures for its proper implementation within a reasonable period of time.”