The other day, the story was about gross irregularities in the implementation MGNREGA works and a deep-rooted conspiracy hatched by Panchayati Raj officials, both elected and unelected, with full knowledge of the ‘gullible’ job card holders to misappropriate huge sums of money. Now, it is about the state government not paying the Panchayat officials and job card holders the money due to them, which the Panchayat officials alleged to have been diverted by the state Rural Development and Panchayati Raj department. It is like a sadistic joke played on the general people and public fund. After a statewide bandh called by the Panchayati Raj employees, the state government relented and released a part of the funds which again failed to cut any ice with the agitators. The government on Thursday released MGNREGA fund of Rs 83 crore for the state Panchayat Parishad functionaries. But the released fund is for only two days’ work wage for job cardholders. Hence, the Panchayat Parishad members, continued with their protest and shutdown call, demanding the release of the entire Central government sanctioned fund amount.
Members of Panchayat Parishad in Manipur have been holding protests demanding the release of MGNREGA fund and airing their grievances since April 17. They are demanding the release of funds under the 15th Finance Commission Award (2nd instalment) and honorarium from October 2019 to March 2021. The protestors say, releasing Rs 83 crore is not enough for job card holders work wages as the wage per day is Rs 238 per job cardholder. The honorarium of Panchayat functionaries was released on Wednesday. All along, the state Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Thongam Biswajit was trying to put the blame on the precarious financial situation of the state. He said, proposal has been sent to the Finance department to release the sanctioned amount of Rs 569.16 crore under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
Issuing clarification on the delay in releasing the MGNREGS funds, the minister said the sanctioned amount had already been credited in the State Account on March 23. The Administrative department had sent the proposal to the Finance department for release of the fund and it will be released soon, he said. He continued that for the 15th Finance Commission, a file has also been submitted to the Finance department to sanction a sum of Rs 37,08,50,000 for Zila Parishad and Gram Panchayat as per instruction from the ministry. Biswajit said that the release of honorarium of the Panchayati Raj Institution was delayed as there was a financial crisis in the state and the closing of the financial year in March last by the Finance department. Meanwhile, the state chief minister has said that there seems to be some communication gap regarding the release of MGNREGA funds and it will be sorted out soon. We all know, Chief Minister N Biren Singh is not in charge of the Finance portfolio but he is still the head of the government. So, the question is whether he was apprised of the unfolding situation and likely consequences by the concerned minister Th Bishwajit. A more or less scenario occurred at the fag-end of the last financial year regarding payments of liabilities for the contractors of Works Department, of which Th Bishwajit is also the minister. The general impression is that the Chief Minister as the head of the state seems to be in charge of everything happening in the state while he is really not.