Congress on Wednesday targeted the Centre by latching on to reports that WhatsApp groups were used by the Rural Development Ministry to tell the states to stop generating work under MGNREGA. “The Modi government has used modern technology to further hurt the conditions of the weakest sections in India. It is trying to underplay the widespread rural distress by manipulating the MGNREGA demand,” party spokesman Manish Tewari told reporters.
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He said the government’s action amounted to contempt of the Supreme Court which had advised the Centre to be proactive to deal with situation caused by drought in several states.
Accusing the government of “completely destroying” the manner in which it should act under the transaction of business rules, Tewari said the money which should have gone to the poor is being “artificially manipulated and stopped” by the Centre.
He alleged that state governments were being threatened, with the Modi government asking them to stop demanding their pending amounts.
Tewari lamented that government has acted in this manner despite the fact that in 2015-16, rural wages were at a decade low. Besides, in 2014-15, agricultural growth was negative while it was just one per cent in 2015-16, he said.
Noting that the nature or base of MGNREGA is that it is a demand-based scheme and not an allocation-based scheme, he said whatever be the demand, it is the duty of the central government to fulfil the requirements.
According to certain media reports, the rural development ministry used an off-record WhatsApp chat group to tell states not to generate more work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the drought year, noticing a steep rise in demand for work under the programme.
The ministry had told state officials that the “mad race” for generating work under MGNREGA could not continue and warned that more funds would not be made available soon and that states should “plan” more “judiciously” with the money they had already received, the reports claimed.