New Delhi, Jan 30 (PTI) Alleging that much of the pending MGNREGA funds belonged to non-BJP ruled states, Andhra Pradesh Minister N Lokesh Wednesday demanded that the Centre clear dues of Rs 1,673 crore to his state. Also Read - This Hilarious Video of a Buffalo Dancing with its Owner will Make You Laugh Insanely

He made the demand at a meeting with Union Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar. Also Read - Live Cricket Score Ind vs Aus 4th Test Day 3 Today's Match Live Updates Gabba, Brisbane: Thakur Joins Sundar After Pant Departs, 200 up For India

Under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) wages need to be paid within 15 days. But payments have not been made in the last two-and-half months due lack of central funds, Lokesh said. Also Read - Aloe Gel: 7 Ways to Use This Gel For Glowing, Healthy Skin and Hair

Lokesh, who holds the charge of IT, Panchayati Raj and Rural Development Ministry in Andhra Pradesh, informed those in the meeting that the state has been implementing MGNREGA effectively and requested the Centre to release at least the wage component of Rs 498 crore out of the total dues.

Union Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal, several Telugu Desam Party (TPD) MPs and central officials were present in the meeting.

“After the discussion, the minister (Tomar) assured releasing of Rs 150 crore to the state. However, I told him that this amount is not sufficient. Then, the minister said to use the state budget and assured of reimbursing it later,” Lokesh told reporters after the meeting.

The central government was informed that the Andhra Pradesh government is facing a fund crunch as it has to implement various development schemes.

“I requested the minister to release at least the wage component (Rs 498 crore). The minister assured that he will do his best after discussing with his officials,” he said.

Out of the Rs 1,673 crore pending amount under the MGNREGA, wages are Rs 498 crore, material is Rs 1,175 crore, Lokesh said, adding that the past pending amount of Rs 1,350 crore was also due.

After the meeting, a senior Rural Development Ministry official told PTI, “We have got an additional budget allocation of Rs 6,000 crore for MGNREGA. The Andhra Pradesh government’s entitled liabilities will be settled. There is no issue. It is an ongoing process.” Under the scheme, the state government said it has provided 20.18 crore work days so far, and it will touch 27.5 crore works days by end of the fiscal, higher than 21.2 crore works days in the previous financial year.

MGNREGA labour is being used for constructing cement roads, anganwadi bhawans, crematoriums, gram panchayat offices among other development works of the state government.

In the meeting, Lokesh — son of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu — informed that as much as Rs 6,449 crore payment was pending under the scheme across the country.”Of which, Rs 3,175 crore pending amount is towards West Bengal, Rs 1,840 crore to Andhra Pradesh, Rs 623 crore to Kerala. The maximum pending is in non-BJP ruled states,” he said.

Lokesh added that it is not know if the Centre is doing partiality or not, but the pending amount is on record.

Asked about BJP accusing the TDP of diverting NREGA funds, the Andhra Pradesh minister dismissed the accusation and said, “We are not paying it to our workers, we are paying those working under the scheme.” The audit teams were sent twice to the state and they could not find anything. The centre has given several awards to Andhra Pradesh recognising its performance, Lokesh said.

“The drone audit is being done on a pilot basis in two mandals. The central government was surprised to see the audit measures being taken by the state and the details,” he added.

Asked about alleged land allotment to a leading IT firms, Lokesh said, “Is it is wrong to allot land to HCL? As per the policy, I will give land at a lower rate. If it brings another 10 companies, I will give land to them at a lower rate.” The state IT Minister said he was wooing companies to invest in the state by competing with others by giving incentives so as to create employment.

“I will give the best incentives which no other states in India have given. I will give land at a lower rate to whichever company wants to set up in the state. I have given land to HCL, TCS, Reliance. I am creating employment. HCL will create 25,000 jobs. He is my client,” Lokesh added.

The IT industry is coming up in the state because of the progressive policy and best incentives. The state government is allotting land as per the policy and there is no deviation in it, he said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.