Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday sought a report from the Union government on why the latter has stopped release of central funds under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to the West Bengal government.
A division bench of Chief Justice T.S. Sivagnanam and Justice Hirnamay Bhattacharya directed the Union government to file a detailed report on this count to court by June 20. The state government will file its counter-reply in form of an affidavit within seven days from the receipt of the central report, it said.
The direction came on a petition filed by the West Bengal Agriculture Workers’ Association, which said that although as per rules the payment under the 100-day job scheme of MGNREGA is supposed to be credited to the accounts of job card holders, the payment has stopped for the last couple of months.
On Tuesday, the state government counsel informed the court that although the Union government is supposed to provide the funds under the MGNREGA scheme, it has stopped payment to the state government during the last few months and hence the latter is unable to pay to the job card holders.
“As a result, thousands of workers were denied their legitimate dues. The state government had also brought the matter to the notice of the Union government a number but it yielded no result,” counsel argued.
In his counter argument, the Union government counsel said that central funds under MGNREGA are spent by the state government concerned. “For the last few years there had been severe misuse of such funds, where the genuine beneficiaries were denied. So the Union government has stopped fresh release of funds during the last couple of years. The funds will be released again if the Union government is satisfied with the explanation given by the state government on this count,” counsel said.
Thereafter the division bench directed the Union government to submit a report on this count to the court by June 20. However, Chief Justice Sivagnanam observed that it is the duty of the Union government to ensure proper utilisation of central funds. The matter will come up again for hearing next month.