This week a few articles in the media have created an impression that the central government is trying to scale down the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act, which has been operational since 2006. The news reports and analyses, one of which appeared in www.hindustantimes.com (The Centre’s sneaky curtailing of MGNREGA funds is not just illegal, but inhuman too, October 26), were based on an informal whatsapp communication between the rural development ministry’s joint secretary and state representatives.
The whatsapp communication is regretted and does not reflect the view of the Union government, which is committed to implementing the programme in letter and spirit within the legal framework established for it.
For a better understanding of the programme’s current status, here are some figures: The expenditure under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in 2015-16 (Rs 43,906.01 crore, Centre plus states) was the highest-ever since the scheme was launched in 2006.
The Central budgetary provision in 2016-17 for the scheme (Rs 43,500 crore) surpasses even last year’s high spending. The person days of work generated in between April and September are the highest in the last six years at Rs 138.96 crore, 21% more than the previous year.
An analysis of the last six years’ data reveals that person days’ generation in the month of September comes down in a good monsoon year.
In fact, the last one-and-a-half years has been marked by a transformational improvement in the implementation of the Scheme. For the first time, a performance outcome report was published for 2015-16 with a thrust on durable assets. There has also been an unprecedented thrust on water conservation. Over 8.5 crore active MGNREGS workers (77%) have linked their Aadhaar number in the NREGASoft database.
By November 20, all assets created under the Scheme over the last two years will be geo-tagged and available in the public domain. This will bring even greater transparency.
There has been improvement in the timely payment of wages as well and more improvements shall take place in the months to come. The government has also invested in skilling unskilled workers.
The government views the scheme as a livelihood security resource and is committed to a corruption-free, transparent, quality durable assets focussed programme that provides work on demand to households.
Amarjeet Sinha is secretary, ministry of rural development