Bengal shocker for NREGA employment

By bappaditya paul

West Bengal has turned out to be a poor performer as far as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is concerned.

According to the latest status report released by the Union ministry for rural development, till 16 December this fiscal, West Bengal could generate only about 14 days of employment under the NREGA which assures 100 days of work to unemployed adults. This poor performance is in line with the negative trend being witnessed in the state since the start of the 2010-11 financial year.

In 2010-11, the state was being able to generate only 31 days of work per registered households, as compared to the 45 days of employment provided in 2009-10. The present national average of employment provided under NREGA (2010-11) is 47 days.

According to the Union government report, out of the 18 notified NREGA districts in West Bengal, Cooch Behar has been the worst performer this fiscal with only about nine days of work generated so far.

This is followed by 10 days of work generated in Nadia; 11 days in Hooghly; 12 days in Howrah, Burdwan, North and South Dinajpur, Siliguri Mahakuma Parisad and West Midnapore; 13 days in Birbhum and East Midnapore; 14 days in Jalpaiguri and Murshidabad; 15 days in Bankura, 16 days in Malda, 18 days in South and North 24-Parganas.

The administrative areas under the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) top the list with 23 days of work being provided per registered households.

Consequent upon the poor performance on the NREGA front and other Centre-aided rural development projects, chief minister Mamata Banerjee has already removed the state panchayat minister, Mr Chandranath Sinha, and has now allotted the portfolio to her experienced aide, Mr Subrata Mukherjee, for damage control.

But with barely three months to go for the current fiscal and around Rs 900-crore remaining unutilised till 30 November last year out of the then total available fund of Rs 1,823-crore; the NREGA employment figure in West Bengal is likely to end up at a record low in 2011-12. The approved NREGA budget (labour) for the state this fiscal is Rs 3,868-crore.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 9 January 2012).


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