Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the Centre for not releasing adequate funds to states for MGNREGA and asked it to give details of expenditure on the scheme in drought-hit states, saying relief has to be provided now and not after one year. “If you are not releasing the funds, then no one will like to work. States will say they have no funds, so they can’t pay anyone for MGNREGA work. No state will make any commitment to the people,” a bench headed by Justice M B Lokur said.
“Relief has to be given immediately and not after one year. Temperature is soaring at 45 degree celsius, there is no drinking water, nothing is there. You have to do some thing and provide relief on time,” the bench said. It said as per government’s own figures, average workdays is 48 days, while the statute says it should be 100 days. “The argument holds substance that since you (Centre) are not releasing the funds, states are not willing to allocate works to people under MGNREGA and hence the average workdays will fall,” the bench also comprising Justice N V Ramana said. “We should realise that there is problem. Nine states and now Rajasthan have declared drought. It is difficult to believe that there is no drought in Bundelkhand and Marathwada,” the bench said. Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand informed the bench that Rs 7983 crore will be released by the Centre in a couple of days towards wage liability, while Rs 2400 crore material liability will be cleared in June. She said that Rs 2723 crore was being released as wage reliability for the drought affected states. “This year also, you will face problem. Things will not improve unless you provide funds. One more state Rajasthan has now declared drought. Now the total drought-affected states have gone up to 10. Total of 256 villages in Gujarat have been now declared drought-affected,” the bench said. “We are not targeting anybody. We are not targeting the officials. There are other ways of targeting. This is not an adversarial issue and everyone should come up with solutions. We are just trying to help the people,” the bench said while referring to the officials present in the court room. The Additional Solicitor General further submitted that the Centre was trying to do everything possible to help the people in drought-hit areas but there were some constraints. The hearing remained inconclusive and will continue on Thursday. On March 31, the apex court had asked Centre to say how many states had drought management cells and why no district- level disaster management authorities have been set up. It had suggested that the Centre, with the help of satellite data, should analyse the expected rainfall in the monsoon season and take effective steps to tackle drought-like situations on time. The bench is examining various aspects of relief given to drought-hit farmers during the hearing of a PIL filed by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan seeking urgent implementation of guidelines for areas hit by natural calamity. Earlier, the court had expressed its concern over low compensation paid to calamity-hit farmers and observed that it was leading some of them to commit suicide. The NGO, in its revised prayer, has sought a direction to Centre to abide by the provisions of MNREGA Act and use it for employment generation in drought-affected areas. The PIL filed by the NGO has alleged that parts of 12 states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Chattisgarh were hit by drought and the authorities were not providing adequate relief.