More govt funds for rural housing and MGNREGS
The NDA government’s rural housing scheme and flagship rural job programme are set to get additional funds for the remaining four months of this financial year to allow coverage of more beneficiaries, senior government officials told HT.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s rural housing scheme and the flagship rural job programme are set to get additional funds for the remaining four months of this financial year to allow coverage of more beneficiaries, senior government officials told HT — an indication of the government’s efforts to focus on the two key welfare programmes ahead of the elections in 2019.
The pumping in of additional funds assumes significance in the light of the popularity of the programmes and the government’s zealous efforts to expand the base of beneficiaries. While the rural job scheme or Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has seen an increase in the number of active workers to at least 110 million, the housing scheme has become one of the most popular among the poor with over 17 million houses set to be completed by March 2019.
In the 2018-19 general budget, the rural ministry received Rs 11,4915.32 crore. Out of this, Rs 11,2403.92 crore was earmarked for the rural development department to fund welfare programmes.
The union finance ministry had held a few meetings for the preparation of supplementary demand for grants that will be placed before Parliament in the upcoming winter session. According to the officials, discussions between the finance and different ministries are also underway for the preparation of the Vote on Account, which is expected to be placed in February. “After the new bureaucratic team in the finance ministry for the budget preparations is firmly in place, the final discussion for allotment of funds will gain momentum,” said a senior official requesting anonymity. It isn’t clear how much more money will be provided.
Rural development secretary Amarjeet Sinha said that by March, the government intends to build another 4.5 to 4.8 million new houses to reach the overall target of 17 million units under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana during the tenure of this government. After coming to power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi scrapped the earlier Indira Awas Yojana and launched a modified rural housing scheme with higher allocation of 1.2 lakh to 1.3 lakh for each house.
In the internal assessment of the government, the housing scheme, the rural electrification scheme and the Ujjwala cooking gas programme have emerged the most popular policy interventions . The Centre is hopeful that by December 2018, all houses in India will have a power connection. Ujjwala scheme released subsidised cooking gas connections for 57 million rural women.
The additional funds and further push for these welfare schemes comes at a time when the BJP is trying to carve out a vote base of the beneficiaries. Modi has been meeting beneficiaries of specific schemes in the past few months and the BJP’s top leadership has asked its cadre to reach out to each of the 220 million families that have benefited from the myriad welfare schemes. “Remember, when a house is built or a gas connection is given, it’s not just one person but an entire family that gets direct benefits,” said a second official, requesting anonymity.