Union Budget: Funds ‘inadequate’ for rural job-spinner MGNREGA
The budget has allocated Rs 60,000 crore for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act programme, which had generated the highest number of jobs last financial year, causing an expenditure of Rs 70,000 crore.
The current liability of the scheme, which provided succour to many families amid the rural distress last year, is more than Rs 10,000 crore.
So, the money available to the rural job guarantee programme this financial year is, effectively, Rs 50,000 crore, social activist Nikhil Dey said.
The scheme provides for up to 100 days’ paid, unskilled work to every rural household in a year. The gram panchayat decides the labour-intensive projects to be undertaken under the scheme.
A sum of Rs 55,000 crore was allocated to the scheme in last year’s budget, with then finance minister Arun Jaitley promising more funds if necessary. The scheme generated 255 crore person-days of work in 2018-19, the highest for any year since its inception 14 years ago.
The Union rural development ministry had sought an additional Rs 18,000 crore in January this year but the finance ministry released Rs 6,000 crore, which has led to the current liability.
“The allocated funds for 2019-20 are inadequate keeping in view the liability, inflation and continued rural distress. The visible increase in the allocation compared with last year’s is misleading,” Dey said.
“It’s a demand-driven scheme. There should not be any cap on the allocations. But the government does not provide the required resources,” he added.
Rainfall has so far been deficient in most parts of India. This means the rural job guarantee scheme may witness a similar job demand as last year. Nearly 10 crore families hold job cards under the programme.
The Economic Survey, tabled in Parliament on Thursday, said the demand for work under the scheme may be used as a real-time indicator of rural distress.