Govts not following SC directive on drought, claim outfits

New Delhi: A month since Supreme Court's directive to central and state governments to ensure food security and release funds for works under MGNREGA in drought-hit areas, some outfits on Thursday accused the ruling dispensations, particularly the Centre, of non-compliance with the apex court's instructions.

Describing the alleged "bleak" response from governments as "drought of political will", the organisations, including Swaraj Abhiyan, on whose petition the SC had issued the directive, said they will now submit a report to SC on the issue.

"The country has passed through an unprecedented drought. To tackle it, the SC had given a historic order. But the governments, especially the Centre, don't intend to follow the order. "... on one hand there is severity of drought, on the other there are bleak responses from the governments. This is
not only drought of water, but political will, too, which we are witnessing," Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav told reporters here.

Yadav, in a statement, called the alleged non-compliance of the SC order as "wilful disobedience" by the governments. He also claimed that field visits by the organisations in parts of 13 drought-hit states showed that none of them has provided foodgrains to affected people in accordance with National Food Security Act.

The SC directive of implementing mid-day meal scheme during summer vacation has also not been complied with by them in letter and spirit, he claimed.

"Orders have been issued by most states for providing mid-day meal, but compliance is only on paper," he said. The organisations, including Swaraj Abhiyan, Ekta Parishad, Jal Biradari and National Alliance of People's Movement, noted that in Haryana, Maharashtra, Odisha, Jharkhand and Bihar no meals were served during vacations, while other states were "very irregular" at it.

On the direction to Centre on releasing adequate funds for implementing MGNREGA, the organisations observed that central government is yet to release fully the first tranche due in first week of April as per Master Circular.

In the statement, the outfits said the government has released only first instalment so far, of which, Rs 3,047 crore is available for this financial year after meeting pending liabilities of last year.

The second instalment of the first tranche, at least Rs 17,000 crore has not been released yet. Pending liabilities have risen to Rs 2,563 crore as of today, the statement reads.

"The court had said there should be no fund shortage for MGNREGA. But still there is Rs 2,500 crore deficit this year. Court had said that farmers get timely compensations, that they get loans (through banks). Both of these have not been complied to... perhaps, this country has not seen such
insensitivity before this," Yadav said.

He said Swaraj Abhiyan and other organisations have decided to monitor the compliance of SC directives by all governments concerned and submit their report on how much implementation has actually taken place on August 1, when the matter will be heard next.

"We will submit a report when the governments submit their action taken reports," Yadav said. Besides Yadav, Harsh Mander, former IAS officer and one of
the SC-appointed food commissioners to oversee implementation of public distribution system, PV Rajagopal of Ekta Parishad, social activist Nikhil Dey and Ambedkar University economics professor Dipa Sinha briefed the press.

Dey noted release of funds for implementing MGNREGA continues to be a "big issue" despite SC court order.

"For the sake of saying, the Centre claims on its website that it has availability of Rs 22,000 crore. But of these, Rs 16,000 crore will be for settling dues.

"Now only Rs 6,000 crore are left. SC had said the Centre should have allotted Rs 20,000 crore for the works. That means the government needs to release Rs 14,000 crore more this year, but there is no money," he claimed.

Referring to the undertaking submitted by Centre before the apex court saying that the entitlement of number of days of work will be increased to 150 days (from 100 days) in all drought-hit states, Dey rued that barring Karnataka, no other state has issued such an order. He also claimed that the court directive on offering compensation to MGNREGA workers for delay in payment of wages too has not been complied with.

Mander said the governments "lacked compassion" while dealing with the drought situation and are doing even less than what the Britishers did during colonial era in such circumstances.

Rajagopal, who claimed to have visited nine drought-hit districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, stated that women and those belonging to SC/ST were the worst sufferers of scarcity as they don't own land and therefore, are not eligible for compensation.

On May 13, the SC had issued several directives to Centre and state governments asking them to appoint food commissioners to oversee effective implementation of the Public Distribution System, that mid-day meal is given in schools throughout summer season in drought-affected areas and the Centre release outstanding funds for MGNREGA and offer compensation for the delay.

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