The Government on Friday proposed to earmark Rs 60,000 crore for implementing the rural job scheme in 2019-20 – even lower than the allocation of Rs 61,084 crore made for the programme in 2018-19 revised estimates.
Though nearly 90 MPs and 160 activists and eminent citizens had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to raise the allocation for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), Finance Minister Piyush Goyal earmarked Rs 1,084 crore less than the current year's revised estimate.
“Rs 60,000 crore is being allocated for (the) MGNREGA in 2019-20. Additional amount would be provided if required,” Goyal said presenting the Interim Budget for the next financial year in the Lok Sabha on Friday.
The Finance Minister allocated Rs 19,000 crore for Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) in Budget Estimate 2019-20 as against Rs 15,500 crore in revised estimate 2018-19. He allocated Rs 19,000 crore for Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Gramin) in 2019-20, bringing it down from the 2018-19 revised estimate of Rs 19,900 crore.
The total allocation for the Ministry of Rural Development went up from Rs 1,14,400.02 crore in 2018-19 revised estimate to Rs 1,19,874.43 crore in 2019-20 Budget estimate.
The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government had allocated Rs 55,000 crore for the MGNREGS in 2018-19 financial year, but an additional Rs 6,084 crore was earmarked for the programme on January 15 last, taking the total allocation for it in the revised estimate to Rs 61,084 crore – the highest in the history of the scheme since it was launched in 2006.
The MGNREGS – mandated by Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act – is designed to guarantee at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every rural household having adults ready to do unskilled manual work. The programme was launched by the previous Congress-led Government in 2006.
Despite initial clamour in the BJP to disband the scheme due to the change of regime in New Delhi in 2014, Modi Government continued the scheme after making some changes to it.
Several MPs and eminent citizens, including former bureaucrats, leading development economists, prominent activists and farmers' leaders,wrote to Prime Minister last month that over 99% of the funds allocated for the MGNREGS in the Budget Estimate 2018-19 had been exhausted by January 1 and acute funds crunch had brought the programme close to a halt.
They also wrote to Prime Minister that the additional allocation of Rs 6,084 crore was “grossly inadequate” and would not even cover pending liabilities of about Rs 9,000 crore. They argued that even after taking into account the additional funds, about 91% of the total allocation for the programme had already been utilised and, after meeting liabilities, the state governments would not be able to provide any new employment under the scheme.
Given that the lean agricultural season has begun, demand for work will be at its peak but the government will once again fail the rural poor by denying employment when they need it the most, argued the MPs and the activists.