After Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly trashed it, and Union minister Nitin Gadkari slammed it in an internal note, the Rural Development Ministry is learnt to have included the “success stories” of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in the list of achievements under various flagship programmes on the completion of the NDA government’s one year in office later this month.
The Rural Development Ministry officials said the list has been sent to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, which is likely to take a final call on including the scheme’s success stories.
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The I&B Ministry has asked all ministries to furnish success stories from states over the last one year in the flagship schemes implemented by them. The Rural Development Ministry, according to sources, has sent such stories from four of its flagships – the MGNREGA, the Indira Awas Yojana, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and the National Rural Livelihoods Mission.
The inclusion of MGNREGA’s “success stories” comes as a surprise, following Prime Minister Modi’s scathing criticism of the scheme. Replying to the motion of thanks to the President’s address in Lok Sabha in end February this year, the PM had said he would not do away with the scheme because it was a “living proof” of the previous UPA government’s failures.
However, a day later Finance Minister Arun Jaitley gave a marginal hike to the scheme’s allocation in the Budget from Rs 34,000 crore to Rs 34,699 crore, promising to enhance the allocation by another Rs 5,000 crore if there is a tax buoyancy.
The then rural development minister Nitin Gadkari had also slammed the scheme in an internal ministry note in October last year, saying it had been reduced to “yet another government programme exploited for pure partisan purpose” and through which “participating agencies and individuals” seek “personal benefit”. Lashing out at a “network of vested interest”, the note had claimed the scheme continues to be presented as being successful because these interests are “milking it to their advantage”.
The ministry officials said while the government asked for three such stories, four have been sent to include the MGNREGA. The ministry had already received over 200 such stories from states. The MGNREGA is closely associated with the UPA government having been introduced as its major flagship in February 2006, and subsequently credited with helping it electorally in the 2009 Lok Sabha and various assembly polls.