CHENNAI: Are Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) funds meant only to pay people sitting idle without doing anything, Madras high court asked on Monday, miffed at the Union government’s stand that the funds could not be spared for removing invasive species, including seemai karuvelam, in forests and hills.
After special government pleader T Seenivasan informed the court that Tamil Nadu had been disallowed by the Union government from using the fund for removing invasive species, a division bench of Justice V Bharathidasan and Justice N Sathish Kumar said: “If such work is not permitted, we will record that the scheme is not utilised properly.”
“Come with a positive response and be informed that anyway we would order sanction of MNREGA funds for such work,” the bench said to senior standing counsel for central government V Chandrasekaran on Monday.
The issue pertains to an order passed by the court in 2014 directing the state government to take immediate steps to remove invasive species including Seemai Karuvelam.
In March, the bench expressed displeasure over the state’s lethargic approach towards removing invasive species as per the direction of the court.
The court further suggested the state involve locals, including the tribal community, in the removal work through MNREGA scheme.
When the plea came up for hearing on Monday, court-appointed amicus curiae T Mohan informed the court that the Centre was wrong in rejecting permission to commence the work through MNREGA scheme.
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act provided for doing afforestation work under the scheme. Removal of invasive species in part of afforestation work, he added.
Recording the same, the court directed Chandrasekaran to inform the additional solicitor-general R Shankaranarayanan to get instructions from the Centre in the light of the provision that provides for such work in the Act.
The court then adjourned the hearing to April 19.