Delays in the disbursement of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme wages in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur have led to severe financial stress, people here say, with some being forced to borrow money from private lenders at high interest rates. Some workers say they haven’t been paid for as many as five months, making it difficult to afford two square meals daily.
While a government official in the district admitted that the Rural Development Department in Patna had not received funds from the Centre for some time, leading to delays in the disbursement of the wages under the rural job guarantee scheme, he said the Centre has released the funds and the wages of 93% of the district’s workers have been released.
However, as per MGNREGA Watch, an NGO based in Muzaffarpur, around 25,000 workers in several blocks of the district, including Gaighat, Bochaha and Kurhani, are yet to receive their wages.
Sudama Devi, 37, a widow and a resident of Dhabauli village under Mohammadpur Sura panchayat, said she does not have enough to feed her five children. Her eldest child, aged 13, was eating poor-quality rice with water and salt when this reporter met him.
“I have borrowed Rs. 5,000 from a local moneylender at a high interest rate. For the past four months, I have not received my wages. If I don’t get the money, how will I survive?” Ms. Sudama said, breaking into tears. She added that getting paid for the 35 days she worked under the scheme would mean the world to her.
Sunita Devi, 40, of Chorniya village under Beruwa panchayat in Gaighat block, faces a similar fate. She has not received wages for 45 days of work she did between March and July 2023, which add up to around Rs. 10,000.
Many workers allege rampant corruption as a reason for the non-payment of their wages.
Amit Kumar Upadhyay, District Programme Officer, MGNREGA, Muzaffarpur, said the issue has been resolved. “In our district, the timely payment rate is 93%. It means that out of every 100 workers, 93 are paid on time. Actually, we had not been receiving funds from the Centre, which go into the Rural Development Department account. Due to the delay, there was an issue of non-payment of wages. But it has been resolved now,” Mr. Upadhyay said. He added that there are some issues with the Aadhaar-based wage payment, which are being fixed.