Amidst criticism being faced by the Union Modi government over it’s alleged mishandling of MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Urban Employment Guarantee Act) by the opposition, mainly by congress, especially over the pending FTOs of West-bengal and Andhra pradesh. The main accusation levied on the union is that they are not serious about funding the MGNREGA scheme and wants to kill it as they don’t want a UPA scheme to succeed. Now, the ministry of rural development has come out with numbers and statistics to prove that in-fact the Modi government has been committed to improve the scheme and turn it into a major success.
In a press release by the ministry today, the ministry claimed that the govt has ensured high budget allocation to meet the objectives of the Act and strengthening of monitoring system. Also, measure like electronic fund management system (eFMS), Aadhaar seeding, Geo tagging of assets and strengthening of Social Audit System are some steps towards bringing in more transparency and accountability in the programme implementation. It further says that emphasis on proper work file maintenance, setting up of Citizen Information Boards as part of Janta Information Systems are some of the other measures that the government has taken in order to make the rural employment scheme more efficient and beneficial.
The Ministry of Rural development also presented some numbers acording to which the current Financial Year is marked by the highest ever budget allocation of Rs. 48000 Cr. The table below which gives a glimpse of the revised estimate at the Centres level and the expenditure in the States/UTs over the last 7 years was also released to the media by the ministry.
|Year||Revised (Cr)||Expenditure (Cr)|
* Figures as on 12.09.2017
The ministry claimed that the availability of funds is not a constraint for the implementation of the program. The Government is committed to provide funds for implementation of MGNREGA also the press-release stated that to ensure that MGNREGA workers receive their wages on time, National Electronic Fund Management System (NeFMS) has been put in place, following which almost 96% of wages are being paid directly to bank accounts.
On the issue of West-Bengal and Andhra Pradesh the ministry clarified thatFTOs for Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal are pending for payment because Internal Audits conducted by the Ministry in the recent past in both the States have detected irregularities in implementation which both the States have been asked to rectify. The ministry said that the funds will be released to both states once complete and sufficient response is received. The release also clarifiedthat around Rs. 36500 Cr (76% of total allocation) have already been released in this financial year, leading to timely payment of wages in 85% cases.
The release also points out thatIn order tooptimize public investments, adequate focus is also being laid on convergence of MGNREGS with other schemes.A good example of convergence is houses being constructed under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). While 33 Lakhs houses were constructed in FY 2016-17 with Rs. 18000 from MGNREGS as unskilled wage labour contribution to every house, the current financial years target is 51 lakh PMAY houses. Besides, MGNREGA provides Rs. 12000 for construction of household latrines in every PMAY house. Through such examples of convergence, the Ministry is trying to ensure gainful and proper utilization of funds along with provision of wage employment seeking work.
Also, the release mentions that the Government has provided much higher allocations to the Ministry of Rural Development in the last three years. As is evident from the table below, the allocation to Rural Development programmes for creation of infrastructure, rural housing and employment has gone up from 0.50% of the GDP in 2012-13 to 0.63% of the GDP in 2016-17:
|MGNREGA & MoRD EXPENDITURE
|Year||GDP at Current Prices (2011-12 Series)||MGNREGS Exp.||% of GDP||Releases by MoRD for all Programmes||Releases as % of GDP|
The ministry told that they had set up a Committee under the Chairmanship of Additional Secretary with representatives of relevant Central Ministries and five State Governments to examine the issue of Alignment of MGNREGA Wages with Minimum Agricultural Wages which will help bring the wages of farm workers at par with those of the MGNREGA beneficiaries. The release said thatThe present divergence between MGNREGA wages and minimum wages for agricultural labour is on account of the fact that the States do not follow a scientific and uniform system of indexation of wage rates while MGNREGA wages are increased based on changes in Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labours and that the government is committed in ensuring the continuous progress of the scheme.