A scheme flush with funds but a sagging demand seems to have found its rightful allocation in the budget. The UPA’s flagship aam admi scheme MGNREGA is provided R33, 000 crore for 2013-14 — same as it was in the last year’s budget.
The fall in the budget outlay for the right to work programme comes after a high of R40, 100 crore just two years back. But only 73% of the available funds were utilised in 2010-11, following which Pranab Mukherjee, the finance minister last year, had slashed the fund by R7,000 crore.
P Chidambaram went by the same measure and keeping with the utilisation, slashed the revised estimates(12-13) for the scheme to R29, 387 crore.
NREGA, touted as the scheme that allowed UPA stay on in power, is a legal guarantee meaning the government has to shell out over and above the allocations, if there is a demand. However, the ministry of rural development’s data shows the demand is falling lately. In 2009-10, NREGA created 284 crore person-days of work. The next year it was 257 crore and it further fell to 216 crore in 2011-12.
The biggest challenge for the programme remains productive asset creation. Though the primary objective of NREGA is livelihood security, it is modelled to create assets on countryside to enhance soil productivity and water availability thus decreasing the dependency on the programme itself through years.
But lakhs of unfinished works put a question mark on funds utilised. Over 50% of the 151 lakh works, be it lake digging or road laying, taken up till 2010-11 remain unfinished. The ministry has recently brought changes to the scheme allowing more directly useful works like development of SC, ST farm lands, building of toilets, anganwadis to make the scheme more participatory.
The Economic Survey released on Wednesday lists better planning of projects, capacity building of local bodies, skill upgrade reduction of transaction costs, plugging of implementation gaps as way forward for the scheme.
“Rs 33, 000 crore for MGNREGA is actually on the lower side, in the real sense,” National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy lamented.
Allocating the rural roads programme PMGSY Rs. 21,700 crore, the budget proposed PMGSY Phase-2 to benefit states such as Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan.