West Bengal has faced an 18-month funding pause for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), leading to significant challenges. In response, the state government is considering its own 100-day work scheme to boost employment opportunities, lead by Mamata Banerjee, chief minister, West Bengal.
The MGNREGA scheme had been successfully providing 100 days of work through the panchayats, but the lack of funds since December 2021 has brought it to a halt. The Government of India had passed the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 in September, 2005. The Act legally guarantees a 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to adult members of a rural household who demand employment and are willing to do unskilled manual work.
With Rs 2,786 crore worth of pending funds from the Central government, lakhs of workers in West Bengal have been deprived of their rightful wages. The Centre stopped funds following corruption allegations under Section 27 of the MGNREGA Act.
The Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samiti (PBKMS) has expressed concerns about state funding for the proposed 100-day work scheme. A petition seeking MGNREGA workers’ wages is pending before the Calcutta High Court.
A motion was tabled in the West Bengal legislative assembly to address the fund stoppage. The state finance minister has highlighted the pending funds under various schemes, including the PM Awas Yojana.
It is hoped that the implementation of this new 100-day work scheme will help overcome challenges posed by the MGNREGA fund pause and provide a means of livelihood to many.