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March 14, 2019 08:55 PM | Business

Karnataka can take centre to court over MNREGA default, says state minister Krishna Byregowda


As Karnataka grapples with one of its worst droughts, the state government has blamed the centre for not meeting the financial assistance it has sought.

Karnataka rural development minister Krishna Byregowda said the government has also fallen short on its legal responsibility to make
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)

payments.

On the delay in disbursals of the state government's farm loan waiver, the minister said the identification of beneficiaries has taken time.

With Lok Sabha elections approaching, all these issues are set to become more political, but Byregowda said it is the BJP government at the centre that will face the brunt of the gaps in payments of wages and drought relief, "The central government will pay for rural distress, for stifling MGNREGA, and for its partiality in drought response,” he said.

Karnataka is set to cross 10 crore person days under the MGNREGA scheme, the highest ever such utilisation in the state. However, the rural development minister said payments of Rs 2,500 crore from December to March 31 for wage payment and material payment under MGNREGA have not come through “Only Rs 250 crore has been paid by the centre. There are also arrears of Rs 950 crore from the previous year,” Byregowda said.

The state government is clearing wage payment pendency from the state treasury, having already paid Rs 440 crore while also provisioning another Rs 500 crore for meeting the pendency from December to March.

The Karnataka government has accused the centre of trying to scuttle MNREGA. “This is the liability of the centre and the money goes directly to wage earner in rural areas. The centre has violated letter of law by defaulting on MNREGA payments. We can resort to the litigious route but Karnataka government has restrained to retain centre-state relations,” Byregowda said.

The wage payment gap has led to further distress in the state, which is already facing one of its worst droughts, with the majority of the taluks in the State reeling under drought.

In the first instance, 100 taluks have been declared as drought affected areas in Kharif season in 2018-19 and 156 taluks have been declared as drought affected areas in Rabi season 2018-19.

The Karnataka government has sought the assistance of Rs 2,434 crore under NDRF for Kharif season drought relief, but Byregowda said the centre has sanctioned only Rs 949 crore of which the state has received only Rs 433 crore. The state has also sought the assistance of Rs 2,000 crore for Rabi season, but no decision has been taken yet by the central government.

Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy had met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week with a request to expedite release of funds to better respond to distress, but Byregowda said the state government has received no response so far.

The rural development minister said the state government has released Rs 1,500 crore to Zilla Panchayats for drinking water, Rs 135 crore to rural areas and Rs 50 crore to urban areas to take up rapid response drinking water works.

With general elections around the corner, the Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka is confident that these issues will not reflect on the state government but on the centre.

"Omission on MNREGA should be accountability of central government. The Karnataka government is not compromising on fiscal prudence or infrastructure spending," Byregowda said.

BYregowda also hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the latter's claims that the state government's farm loan waiver scheme has not benefited many farmers.

“We have already made payments of over Rs 6000 crore on behalf of 15.5 lakh farms of the Rs 40,000 crore estimated for farm loan waiver in Karnataka. The target is to make payments of Rs 9000 crore of payments to financial institutions by FY19 and we hope to clear the remaining amount during next fiscal," he said.

The minister said the delay in disbursals was due to identifying genuine beneficiaries. "I don’t know why the Prime Minister calls the farm loan waiver scheme a hoax. Either some people are feeding him bogus information or Prime Minister is lying to the nation," Byregowda said.

The rural development minister also criticised the government's move to launch the PM Kisan Samman Yojana during its budget last month, PM Kisan scheme is designed for electoral benefits, not for farmer benefits."

Earlier, Karnataka agriculture minister Shivashankar Reddy had told CNBC-TV 18 that there was a discrepancy in centre’s data on the number of farmers benefited under PM Kisan in Karnataka and had said that only 16 farmers had received payments.

The government said details of 9 lakh farmer has been uploaded on the central portal as of March 8, while 2 lakh farmers data were verified and approved.
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