MGNREGA's pending balance payment is stressing farmers out

MGNREGA's pending balance payment is stressing farmers out: Jharkhand-based farmer Lakhan Mahato committed suicide in July. He constructed a well out of his own pocket under MGNREGA, but didn't get his dues back. With more than Rs 1 crore pending as MGNREGA balance towards Jharkhand's 24 districts, many Mahatos in Jharkhand would have to wait

Ranvijay SinghRanvijay Singh   14 Sep 2019 5:48 AM GMT

MGNREGAs pending balance payment is stressing farmers out

"Under MGNREGA, a well was to be constructed in my name. I was happy that I would get adequate water for irrigation, grow vegetables and earn some money. I mortgaged my fields, borrowed some money and had the well made, but a year has passed and the government has not paid me. People are reminding me of the loans and I am in extreme distress," Janmajay Singh,48, sobs over the phone while telling his woes.

Janmajay is a resident of Aara village in Patratu gram panchayat in Jharkhand's Chanho block. Chanho block has about 250 farmers like Janmajay for whom wells were to be made under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), but they did not get any payment from the government even after the wells were constructed. Due to this, the farmers make frequent visits to the Block Office besides staging a protest there.

Lakhan Mahato, 45, a farmer from Chanho block's Patratu village had committed suicide on July 26. He too had made a well under MGNREGA and could not get a payment for it.

Under MGNERGA, in 2017-18 a well was sanctioned in Lakhan Mhahto's name. He constructed the well out of his own pocket and was paid Rs2,01,471. He did not, however, get the remaining payment of Rs 1.5 lakh which left him desolate.

Lakhan Mahato (File Photo)

He had taken loans worth Rs 1.5 lakh from his three relatives for the purpose of well-making. Like him, several farmers of Chanho block had the well constructed with their own money and now are running from pillar to post for their payment in the Block Office.

Yamuna Oraon, 44, a farmer residing in Badripur village of Chanho Block informed: "I was sanctioned Rs 3.54 lakh. I finished the well three months ahead. I have purchased bricks worth a lakh of rupees besides taking loans. I haven't received any money from the Block Office. I am in grave distress."

She added: "Lakhan ended his life. He was helpless, so am I. People demand their dues, but I hide from them. I protested in front of the Block Office but to no avail. My earnest appeal to the government to return poor farmers their money, what good would come out of holding our money from us."

If we talk about MGNREGA's pending balance payment, as per their website's records, a total of Rs 1.5 crore is pending as the balance payment towards Jharkhand's 24 districts. However, Chanho block's Business Development Officer (BDO) Santosh Kumar informed:"As per the regulation, there is no question of any pending balance. The wells are constructed under MGNREGA, so every beneficiary works as labour based on a job card to make a well. He will be paid for the number of days of work he puts in."

BDO Santosh Kumar informed: "Besides, the construction material must be procured from the authorized vendor only. I wouldn't know upon what basis these farmers are demanding payments. Do they have any written order permitting them to source construction material from external agencies? When the vendor is providing the material, the question of farmers paying doesn't arise."

Challenging the BDO's opinion Krishna Mohan, a protestor said: "The BDO's vendor- supply talk is incorrect. The block has just 7-8 vendors who are incapable of providing the material needed by all the farmers, so the farmers are purchasing their own material to be used for their wells. Vendor supply is also being insisted upon because it ensures the official's steady commission. Directing the money to the farmers' accounts doesn't provide them with a commission."

Krishna Mohan said: "I know of 250 farmers who are worried due to the non-payment of their dues. Someone has mortgaged the fields and some other has taken loans for the wells."He added: "It was assured after Lakhan Mahato's death that the payments shall be released as soon as possible. Nothing of the sort seems to be happening presently. If this situation continues, we may have to stage another major protest."

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