NEW DELHI, Feb 2 (IANS): Payments under the MNREGA rural jobs scheme get delayed and should be given within 15 days, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Thursday as Congress chief Sonia Gandhi stressed that the panchayat has a key role in the scheme's implementation.
"There are many challenges in implementation of MNREGA. The biggest worry is delayed wage payment to workers," the prime minister said at the annual event related to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
"They should get in within 15 days. We need to expand the reach of banks and post offices to do it."
The prime minister said the poor come under debt due to such delayed wage payments. He urged the state governments to address the issue of shortage of manpower in verifying the muster rolls and works done under the scheme.
The prime minister congratulated Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh for implementing MNREGA in Maoist areas and said the playgrounds for children can be now built under the scheme in these districts.
Stating that the scheme has completed six years, he said the government was allocating around Rs.40,000 crore annually to it despite financial difficulties.
The prime minister said MNREGA can become a model rural development scheme and should be dovetailed with other plans for development in rural areas.
"We have not been able to exploit its potential fully," he said.
He pointed out that the poor should be made aware of their rights so they may avail the benefits of the scheme.
Speaking on the occasion, the Congress president said empowering the grassroots organisations was the key to success of MNREGA and complaints of corruption should be strictly addressed.
"Panchayat plays a big role in implementation of MNREGA and we need to empower these grassroots organisations," she said.
"Complaints of corruption in this scheme should be seriously addressed."
Minister Ramesh said the implementation of MNREGA would be reviewed and given a final shape over the next few weeks.
Enacted in 2005, MNREGA guarantees 100 days of wage-employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.