On paper, the rural development ministry got 24% more funds in this budget over the last one. But a closer look reveals that the ministry might have to overcome many challenges, including money.
With the government’s renewed interest in the rural jobs scheme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has fetched Rs 10,000 crore more than its allocation in the last budget. But after a spurt in rural jobs last year, the government had allocated another 9,000 crore. And this year, the ministry actually got just 501 crore more than the last year’s revised estimates.
Former rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said that an increase in allocation was a tacit acknowledgement that more jobs were coming the MGNREGA way because the recall of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes had led to the closure of small factories and left millions of workers unemployed.
If MGNREGS got a meagre 1.05% spike in funds , the rural roads received exactly the same quantum of money—Rs 19,000 crore—that it will spend in the outgoing financial year.
The rural and the poor have emerged as key focus areas of the Narendra Modi government in recent months as the NDA prepares for a clutch of assembly polls and general elections in 2019. But even as the government spoke about the greater pace of road construction to connect villages, critics argued that the budget had actually not given any enhanced support.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley has liberally flushed money for constructing house in rural India. There is a steep Rs 7,000 crore of extra funds as the government employed its resources to fulfil the PM’s ambitious plan of building 4.4 million houses under the Pradhan Mantri Grameen Awas Yojna.
It is a tall order for the ministry that has been grappling to meet targets.
Up against a target of 4.4 million house in one year, the rural development ministry has been able to build just 1.1 million to 1.8 million houses annually in the last five years.
To push faster construction of houses, the union government has also announced prizes for district magistrates. “Districts in which at least 50% of the target if fulfilled, DMs will be given special awards from the Centre. We are also getting good response for this programme from all states,” said rural development secretary Amarjeet Sinha.
The rural housing scheme has also emerged as a key area for employment for locals. Sensing its potential, the ministry is also providing training programmes in masonry, carpentry and plumbing. The Centre, in a bid to reap demographic dividend, has an ambitious plan to get 30,000 trained masons by July 2017.
While the UPA government had allotted Rs 82,000 crore for construction of a house and a toilet, the Modi government had hiked the allotment to Rs 1.32 crore.