Published: 11th November 2014 06:03 AM

BHUBANESWAR: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday directed the State Government to take immediate steps for payment of wages to people who have availed work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

Protestations of State Government citing non-release of funds from Centre notwithstanding, the single member bench of SC Sinha said it was the Government’s responsibility to make the payments. The poor people who take up labour under the scheme do not know who is going to pay their wages. Their due wages should be paid on time, Sinha observed at the start of the two-day camp sitting of the Commission here on Monday.

The Commission took up the petition, filed by rights activist Akhand, regarding non-payment of the wages as the first case of the sitting. Appearing before the bench, Panchayati Raj Secretary DK Singh submitted that payments were affected as Centre has not released funds for over two months.

Wage overdue on the Government under MGNREGA has accumulated to over `200 crore. Funds available with the State Government exhausted 15 days back, bringing wage payments to complete standstill. Compensation in lieu of delayed payments has also not been released since 2013-14. Further, the works under the programme cannot be stopped as the law mandates provisioning of job to any one who applies for it, Singh stated.

The Commission had earlier sought an action taken report from State Chief Secretary in the matter. Akhand had appealed for directions to Government to strictly adhere to the rules in terms of timely payment and compensation.

In another case, the bench also took up the problem of bonded labour and the plight and suffering of such people and directed the Government to initiate comprehensive steps for their rehabilitation. Sinha asked Collectors of Bargarh and Balangir, which are beset with the problem, to ensure that the labourers rescued from other States are covered under different welfare and social security schemes of both the Centre and State Government.

The Commission is set to take up over 55 cases pertaining to the State in its two-day sitting. Open house discussion with common people and NGOs