The NDA government on Monday hailed the achievements of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), which is widely regarded as UPA’s flagship scheme, as a “cause of national pride and celebration”. BJP’s endorsement of the scheme appeared to be in sharp contrast with the general perception that the BJP-led coalition had doubts about the Act’s efficacy.
In a statement released ahead of the rural job guarantee scheme completing ten years, the government counted how over 70% of the Rs 3,13,845 crore spent on the scheme in the last 10 years had gone as wages to the rural poor.
According to social activist Nikhil Dey, this was a positive sign which showed that the implementation of the scheme was on the right track.
“It means the scheme – which was crippled due to lack of funds last year – will survive... That the government had recognised that it was a programme that transcends political parties and played a key role in times of rural distress,” Dey said.
The Manmohan Singh-led government had launched the rural employment guarantee scheme in 2006, calling it “a landmark in our history in removing poverty from the face of the nation”.
But cuts in budgetary allocations for the programme – that PM Narendra Modi called a living monument of Congress’ failure to tackle poverty in 60 years – had triggered fears last year that it could be starved of funds.
The funding improved this year but social activists claim that it was still not enough.
There are still 14 states that have a negative balance, Dey said. This means that either they may not provide work to those who need it against the backdrop of a back-to-back drought or do not have the money to pay them.