Bengal govt pauses rural job scheme as Centre holds funds
Express News Service
KOLKATA: In an unprecedented move, the West Bengal government has decided to press an indefinite pause button on the rural job guarantee scheme in the state as the Centre is yet to approve its labour budget for 2022-23 fiscal. Officials in the districts have been asked not to initiate any work under the MGNREGA.
Sources in Nabanna, the state secretariat, said the decision was followed by the Centre’s decision to withhold the release of Rs 6,500 crore under the MGNREGA after a national-level monitoring team had raised questions over the way funds had been spent in some areas and the state government’s answers were not satisfactory.
The TMC government’s decision of stalling the works under the scheme is said to be significant as the state will go to panchayat elections next year and the scheme benefits the voters in rural Bengal. Earlier, the state government used to allow the MGNREGA works even if there were delays in the approval of the labour budget by the Centre.
“This is because the Centre had never stopped the fund flow under the scheme. But this time the unprecedented decision has been taken because the state is not in a position to afford the risk of launching work under the MGNREGA as there is a realisation that the Centre is unlikely to release the funds in near future,” said the official.
The state government’s decision has already been communicated to the district magistrates who are sending messages to the block development officers (BDOs). “You are requested to proceed very slowly as the labour budget for this FY is yet to be approved. You are again requested not to approve any material-based scheme until further communication,” a message to a BDO reads.
While the Centre pays the entire wage bill for the people employed under the MGNREGA, the state bears 25 per cent of the material cost of the project under the job scheme.