Budget 2019: Less allocation for rural jobs, housing

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on Friday vowed to keep “Gaon” (village) and “Garib” (poor) at the core of all its endeavours, but proposed to slightly lower the allocation for its flagship rural job and housing programmes.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday proposed to earmark Rs 60,000 crore for implementing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in 2019-20 — Rs 1,084 crore less than the allocation of Rs 61,084 crore made for the programme in 2018-19 Revised Estimate. She also proposed to bring down the allocation for the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Grameen) or PMAY (G) for 2019-20 to Rs 16,500 crore from the 2018-19 Revised Estimate of Rs 18,900 crore.

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Nirmala, however, promised that the government would provide electricity and clean cooking facility to all willing families in the villages across the country by 2022.

She also said the third phase of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) would be implemented to upgrade nearly 1,25,000 km of roads over the next five years at an estimated expenditure of Rs 80,250 crore.

The overall budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Rural Development for 2019-20 was proposed to be raised to Rs 1,17,647 crore from Rs 1,12,403 crore in 2018-19 Revised Estimate.

“The soul of India lives in its villages,” she quoted Mahatma Gandhi and noted that the 150th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation was being celebrated this year. “I submit that our government keeps Antyodaya (uplift of poorest of poor) at the core of all its efforts. At the centre of everything that we do, we keep gaon, garib, aur kisan (village, poor and farmers),” said the finance minister, presenting the Union Budget 2019-20 in the Lok Sabha.

Nearly 90 MPs and 160 activists and eminent citizens had written to Prime Minister early this year, requesting him to raise the allocation for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). But the Interim Budget 2019-20 presented by the then Finance Minister Piyush Goyal on February 1 had proposed to spend Rs 1,000 crore less than the allocation made for the programme in 2018-19 Revised Estimate.

Goyal had allocated Rs 60,000 crore for the MGNREGS.

Nirmala too earmarked the same amount for the scheme.

She said that the PMAY-G would achieve “Housing for All” by 2022 with the eligible beneficiaries being provided 1.95 crore houses with amenities like toilets, electricity and LPG connections during the implementation of the second phase of the scheme from 2019-20 to 2021-22.

The finance minister also said that the deadline for connecting the eligible and feasible habitations had been advanced from 2022 to 2019 with 97% of such habitations already being provided with all-weather connectivity.

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