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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

With over Rs 5,000 crore budget boost, govt agenda focuses on rural development

The rural ministry received the most funds after defence with a hike of Rs 5000 crore in overall allocation.

budget Updated: Feb 02, 2019 12:49 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The National Rural Livelihood Mission received a 56% hike in funds—the highest among all rural schemes.
The National Rural Livelihood Mission received a 56% hike in funds—the highest among all rural schemes. (Mujeeb Faruqui/HT FILE)

The Narendra Modi government allocated more funds to key programmes that cater to India’s villages, with an increase of ₹5000 crore in overall allocation for the rural development ministry in the pre-poll interim union budget presented here on Friday.

The rural roads scheme and the livelihood mission—the latter caters to creating alternative sources of income in rural families—enjoyed the best hikes as the government pulled out all the stops to reach out to nearly 900 million Indians who live in rural India.

The country’s current population is estimated at 1.3 billion. Finance minister Piyush Goyal announced that “poor people have the first right over resources” as he rolled out the allocations for different schemes.

The total budget of the rural development ministry for FY 2019-20 stands at ₹117647.19 crore, an increase of ₹5,244 crore over the revised estimates of 2018-19. In the recent years, the rural ministry has received the most funds after the defence ministry.

The National Rural Livelihood Mission received a 56% hike in funds—the highest among all rural schemes. Goyal allotted ₹9024 crore as against ₹5783.5 crore in the revised estimates of 2018-19 with the government eyeing the scheme as a vehicle to enhance rural income through non-farm activities. The scheme supports women’s self-help groups and helps them raise credit to do various business.

The Centre’s flagship rural job guarantee scheme (MGNREGS) got its highest ever budget allocation of ₹60,000 crore, an increase from last year’s budget by ₹5,000 crore but short of the 2018-19 revised estimates by 1084 crore. Goyal, however, added that “additional amount would be provided if required.”

According to government officials, the rural jobs scheme is expected to come in handy to provide more jobs as large parts of the country are reeling under an agrarian crisis. In the ongoing financial year, 69.2 million people have already found jobs under this scheme with 91.9 % of them getting payment in time.

The government increased funds for rural roads by at least 22% over last year’s revised estimates. The new allocation stands at ₹19000 crore as against ₹15500 crore in RE 2018-19. The additional funds are mostly for building roads in the Maoist belts.

As against the RE of just ₹81.8 crore (CHECK), the 2019-20 budget has allotted ₹ 2583 crore for building roads in these troubled areas. Allocation for road construction in the North East region has also gone up by ₹450 crore.

Old people in poor households are set to get higher pensions as the government has increased the budget of the national social assistance programme from ₹8900 crore to ₹9200 crore for the upcoming financial year.

Rural ministry officials indicated that the pension rates are likely to be revised after the election.

Rural development secretary Amarjeet Sinha said: “Both our budget and revised estimates of 2018-19 are ₹112403.92 crore. This indicates that we have been able to spend purposefully all our resources. The flurry of activities in rural India is also helping in creating jobs and assets.”

One of the most popular rural schemes— homes for the poor—has seen a cut of almost ₹2400 crore in its programme component even as the total allocation remains the same as the RE of ₹19000 crore.

As the Centre has completed building more than 15.3 million such houses, the requirement for new houses is expected to be low in the next year.

“We have worked to bridge the urban-rural divide in the country. Members in this house, most of whom are from rural areas, will agree that several times in the past, only empty promises have been made to people living in our villages. During the last five years, we have undertaken targeted expenditure to improve their quality of life in all its dimensions,” said Goyal.

Goyal informed the Lok Sabha that under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, construction of rural roads has been tripled. “15.80 lakh habitations out of a total of 17.84 lakh habitations have already been connected with pucca roads and work is going on to complete the rest very soon,” he said.