18 years on, Punjab has no rules for disbursal of unemployment allowance
The ombudsman responsible for redressal of grievances and disposal of complaints under the Act had recently ordered unemployment allowance to over 300 workers in 13 villages of Patiala
For the first time in Punjab, an ombudsman — appointed under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) Act — has ordered the disbursal of unemployment allowance to over 300 workers in 13 villages of Patiala district. However, this may not be the end of woes for the unemployed workers as the Punjab government, even after 18 years of implementation of the Act, does not have rules pertaining to disbursement of the allowance.
As per the MGNREGA Act, the Centre pays the wages of workers while the state pays the unemployment allowance if it fails to provide work.
The Act gives legal guarantee of at least 100 days of work, in a financial year, to adult members of a rural household who demand employment and are willing to do unskilled manual jobs.
It is learnt that last year, the office of MGNREGA Commissioner Punjab had made attempts to disburse the unemployment allowance but failed to do so in the absence of rules. Hundreds of MGNREGA workers had given written complaints to the ombudsman, last year, over the issue.
Notably, the ombudsman is responsible for redressal of grievances and disposal of complaints relating to implementation of Act.
When contacted, Ombudsman Gurnetar Singh confirmed that the state has no rules for disbursal of unemployment allowance and said, “I had received over 100 complaints over the past few years. Of these, I have already disposed of 56 complaints. The remaining complaints will be disposed of soon.”
He added that he had already ordered block development panchayat officers (BDPOs) to identify the officials responsible for violation of the Act.
Rajkumar Kansuha, state president of Democratic MGREGA Front, said, “It has been almost two decades since the Act was passed, but the bureaucracy of the state failed to draft rules for unemployment allowance and issue a notification in this regard.”
HT made several attempts to contact the state’s rural development and panchayats minister Laljit Bhullar but he remained unavailable for comments. Joint development commissioner, department of rural development and panchayats, also did not respond.