“I have not received the wages from the past one-and-a-half months. It’s Diwali time and we have nothing to eat,” Mr Dolekar said.
Anita and her husband, who are also labourers, haven’t got their wages for almost two months. “We have no money for survival, not even to lit the lamps,” said Ms Anita.
There are several villages in Chhindwara alone where wages have been stalled for almost three months now. The village sarpanch Omprakash Okte said he is also helpless. “MNREGA payments have not been cleared. It’s festival time but these labourers have nothing to celebrate. We are being put under pressure to give them work, but who will clear their dues?” Mr Okte said.
The dues at the rate of Rs 172 per day have added up to almost Rs 1,200 crore. Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Gopal Bhargave has made a trip to Delhi and is hopeful. “Everyday work is going on… money has not come for two months now. I had a meeting with Narendra Tomar. Hopefully, will get the money in a day or two.”
It’s not just overdue wages. The number of work days under the MNREGA has also reduced in Madhya Pradesh.
According to the official website, the state has given employment to 29 lakh families under MNREGA. But many labourers are migrating out of Madhya Pradesh to earn a livelihood, data shows.
Several districts have been declared drought hit, so the demand for work under the employment guarantee programme is bound to rise. The government is planning to create a contingency budget of Rs 1,000 crore for MNREGA payment, but that will happen only next year.