U-turn: MGNREGA gets Rs 38,500 crore in Budget 2016-17
New Delhi: In an absolute U-turn, the NDA government, which a year back had launched a stringent attack on the erstwhile UPA regime’s most ambitious MGNREGA scheme — which guarantees 100 days of work to rural poor — calling it a “living monument” of poverty in the country after 60 years of Independence, on Monday increased the scheme’s budgetary allocation by over Rs 3,800 crore in 2016-17, as finance minister Arun Jaitley laid down the road map for rural development in the Union Budget.
Last year, while replying to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address in Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that MGNREGA was a living monument of poverty in the country.
“Do you think, I will put an end to the scheme. My political wisdom does not allow me to do it. This is a living monument of your failure to tackle poverty in 60 years. With song and dance and drum beat, I will continue with the scheme,” he had said then.
Now a year later, the Modi-led NDA government in its Union Budget allotted Rs 38,500 crore for the same scheme for 2016-17. “Rs 38,500 crore have been allocated for MGNREGA in 2016-17.
If the total amount is spent, it will be highest budget spend on MGNREGA,” Mr Jaitely said in his Budget speech in Lok Sabha. In the last fiscal, the government had made a budgetary provision of Rs 34,699 crore for MGNREGA and promised to provide another Rs 5,000 crore based on the actual utilisation of funds by the states and Union Territories.
Reminding the government of its promise, Union rural development minister Birender Singh had written in this regard to Mr Jaitley on December 30 last year, apprehending a “shortfall of Rs 5,000 crore” in the scheme for this financial year if the promised additional Rs 5,000 crore was not granted for the scheme. The initial budget allocation for 2014-15 was Rs 34,000 crore.
In the revised Budget, it was only Rs 31,000 crore then. The 10th anniversary celebrations of MGNREGA on February 2 had this year set off a political slugfest, with the NDA government saying it has “transformed” UPA’s flagship rural jobs scheme giving it record funds to boost economic growth.
Congress VP Rahul Gandhi had, however, mocked PM Narendra Modi saying his government’s praise of MGNREGA is a “shining example” of his “political wisdom” as he only had called the UPA’s job guarantee scheme a “living monument of Congress failure.”