WITH THE demand for unskilled work under NREGA at a high, the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) has spent 72% of its total budget for this financial year in the first quarter itself.
Of the Rs 1,22,398.43 crore allocated to the ministry for 2020-21, it spent Rs 87,611.41 crore in April-June.
In contrast, according to data available on the Controller General of Accounts’ site, the ministry spent 29% of its budgetary allocation in the first quarter of 2019-2020, 39% in the first quarter of 2018-19, and 32% in the first quarter of 2017-18.
In the first four months of this financial year (April 1-August 4), 5.36 crore households availed NREGA work. This is marginally lower than the full-year figure for 2019-2020 (5.48 crore), but more than the annual figure for any other financial year since 2013-14. In fact, if the present trend continues, the number of households availing NREGA work could exceed last year’s total by the end of this month.
As of August 4, over 163 crore persondays were generated under NREGA during the current financial year, which is over 58% of the 280.65 crore persondays planned for the entire year.
Data available on the NREGA portal shows that Rs 45,253.65 crore was spent under the rural job guarantee scheme from April 1 to August 4, against the Rs 61,000 crore allocated in the budget presented on February 1.
While the government had allocated a lower amount for NREGA this financial year, it announced a Rs 40,000 crore increase in allocation as part of its economic package in response to the pandemic.
While NREGA is its biggest scheme, the ministry also administers the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (Grameen) and Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojana, among others.
The MoRD has emerged as the top spender in the first quarter. Only six other ministries have spent over 27% of their annual allocation in the first quarter: Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution (43%); Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers (36%); Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (36%); Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (32%); Ministry of Labour and Employment (30%); and Ministry of Railways (28%).
Overall, the government spent Rs 8,15,943.78 crore, or 27% of its total budget of Rs 30,42,230.09 for 2020-21; the corresponding figure for last year was 26%.