The Union Rural Development Ministry has finally released its pending share of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employee Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) funds amounting to Rs 1,050 crore for first quarter to UP. However,the war of words over the release of funds continues.
Along with the release order,Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has sent three letters to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav citing shortcomings in implementation of the scheme.
The state government,however,claims that release of funds for the first three months of the fiscal at the end of the second month the funds were released on May 21 would automatically reduce UPs performance in the first quarter.
In the past few months,release of NREGA funds have become a bone of contention between the central and state governments. The Centre had released Rs 420 crore for the first quarter against a demand for Rs 1,275 crore. While the Centre had reasoned that low release was due to low utilisation in the previous financial year,the state had said that low utilisation was because the Centre did not release sufficient funds in 2012-13.
We are being pushed into a vicious cycle. The funds meant to be released for the first quarter in April first week are being released in the last week of May. The funds are meant to be used for the first three months of the financial year,so how can one expect 100 per cent performance from UP when two months have already passed? said a senior government officer.
In his first letter dated May 20,2013,Ramesh refuted the UP governments claim of shortage of funds in the previous financial year. The letter was in reply to a letter sent by Akhilesh on April 26 to Ramesh on shortage of NREGA funds to UP since last year.
On April 1,2012,the UP government had an opening balance of Rs 1654.71 crore under the scheme,which was good enough to be utilised for the first six months till September 2012. Despite this,the Centre released additional funds of Rs 700 crore on June 4,2012. Ideally,the opening balance of the current year should be the same as the closing balance of the previous year but there was a huge gap between the two in the state. wrote the Union minister.
Refuting the allegation of shortage of funds,Ramesh clarified that apart from the opening balance of Rs 1654.71 crore,the Centre released Rs 1291.99 crore for the financial year 2012-2013,which according to him was sufficient for the state government.
In his third letter dated May 21,2013,Ramesh has given details of the release of remaining funds of Rs 1,050 for the first quarter of the current financial year 2013-14,expecting the UP government to follow guidelines and conditions in the future.
We have released the remaining 1049.33 crore funds to UP,which has already got Rs 420 crore. Many shortcomings in the implementation of NREGA have come out in UP,which I have informed you from time to time. I hope you would take action on my recommendations, Ramesh wrote in the letter sent along with the release order.