For Sukhram Dolekar, a resident of Goraiyaa village in Madhya Pradesh's Chhindwara, the light has gone out of Diwali. He visits the panchayat office daily to get his wages for work done under the rural employment guarantee scheme MNREGA, but in vain.
"I have not received the wages from the past one-and-a-half months. It's Diwali time and we have nothing to eat," Mr Dolekar said.
Anita and her husband, who are also labourers, haven't got their wages for almost two months. "We have no money for survival, not even to lit the lamps," said Ms Anita.
There are several villages in Chhindwara alone where wages have been stalled for almost three months now. The village sarpanch Omprakash Okte said he is also helpless. "MNREGA payments have not been cleared. It's festival time but these labourers have nothing to celebrate. We are being put under pressure to give them work, but who will clear their dues?" Mr Okte said.
According to the official website, the state has given employment to 29 lakh families under MNREGA. But many labourers are migrating out of Madhya Pradesh to earn a livelihood, data shows.
Several districts have been declared drought hit, so the demand for work under the employment guarantee programme is bound to rise. The government is planning to create a contingency budget of Rs 1,000 crore for MNREGA payment, but that will happen only next year.