The NDA government, which had earlier raised doubts over the efficacy of MGNREGA, today increased its allocation by over Rs 3,800 crore in 2016-17, with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley laying down the road map for rural development in the Union Budget.
“Rs 38,500 crore have been allocated for MGNREGA in 2016-17. If the total amount is spent, it will be highest budget spend on MGNREGA,” Jaitely said in his Budget speech in Lok Sabha.
In the last fiscal, the government had made a budgetary provision of Rs 34,699 crore for MGNREGA and promised to provide another Rs 5,000 crore based on the actual utilisation of funds by the states and Union Territories.
Reminding the government of its promise, Rural Development Minister Birender Singh had written in this regard to Jaitley December on 30 last year apprehending a “shortfall of Rs 5000 crore” in the scheme for this financial year if the promised additional Rs 5000 crore was not granted for the scheme.
People’s Action for Employment Guarantee, an NGO led by Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey, had separately voiced disappointment, saying that while the government had promised another Rs 5,000 crore for the programme in last year’s budget, it had released only Rs 2,000 crore.
The initial budget allocation for 2014-15 was Rs 34,000 crore. In the revised Budget, it was only Rs 31,000 crore then.
The 10th anniversary celebrations of MGNREGA on February 2 had this year set off a political slugfest, with the NDA government saying it has “transformed” UPA’s flagship rural jobs scheme giving it record funds to boost economic growth.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had, however, mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying his government’s praise of MGNREGA is a “shining example” of his “political wisdom” as he only had called the UPA’s job guarantee scheme a “living monument of Congress failure”.
However, Rural Development Minister Singh, who was in Congress before joining BJP and becoming a Union Minister, had said that the visible attraction now for the scheme was due to its “transformation in last 18 months” during the NDA rule “which did not happen in last ten years”.
He had also lauded Modi government for increasing the allocation in MGNREGA from Rs 33,000 crore and claimed that the government’s spending on MGNREGA was at a record high of Rs 36,977 crore.
“A kind of indifference towards it (MGNREGA) was growing by 2013-14, when the scheme entered its 7th and 8th years…. When there was a change of government in 2014-15, there was talk on whether the scheme will be discontinued or its fund allocation curtailed,” Jaitley had said at the MGNREGA Sammelan in Delhi this month, claiming that the new government on the contrary not only took forward to the scheme but also increased its fund. MGNREGA was UPA’s flagship welfare programme which guaranteed 100 days of work each year for every rural household.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) was notified on September 07, 2005. The Act Act was first notified in 200 districts in the first phase from February 2006 and then extended to 130 more districts. Since 2008, the Act covers the entire country except for districts which have 100 per cent urban population.
More than 64 per cent of the works taken up under the programme are linked to agriculture and allied activities.