Parliamentary Panel Criticises Government Over Reduction In MGNREGA Budget

Parliamentary Panel Criticises Government Over Reduction In MGNREGA Budget

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The Parliamentary Committee on Rural Development and Panchayati Raj has slammed the government over the reduction in allocation for MGNREGA, saying it could hamper the work being done under the rural employment scheme.

The panel also pulled up the Department of Rural Development for not explaining the reason behind the cut in allocation.

MGNREGA witnessed a slash in its budget this year, with Rs 60,000 crore allocated for FY 2023-24. In the previous financial year, the government had allocated Rs 73,000 crore for MGNREGA, while the spending as per the revised estimates in the Budget was Rs 89,400 crore.

The panel said it is a steep reduction of Rs 29,400 crore from the revised estimates stage of FY 2022-23. In a report tabled in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, the parliamentary committee pointed out that the Union government had pending liabilities of Rs 6,231 crore in wages and Rs 7,616 Crore in material components under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA) by January 25 this year.

“Taking into account the increased demand shown by the scheme at revised estimates stage during 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 and also considering that the proposed demand made by the Department of Rural Development for FY 2023-24 was Rs 98,000 crore, the committee had strongly recommended that the department not only assess the ground situation regarding demand for jobs under MGNREGA realistically but also impress upon the Ministry of Finance for increased allocation to MGNREGA,” the panel said.

The committee said the Department of Rural Development, in reply on the fund cut, provided “numerical facts regarding the funds allocated to MGNREGA at budget estimated and revised estimates stages from 2019-20 onwards”.

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It clarified that the Ministry of Finance is requested to provide the funds whenever additional fund is required and added that the Government of India is committed to releasing funds for wage and material payments, the panel said.

The parliamentary committee termed the reply “stereotypical” and “routine”.

The Department of Rural Development neither provided a concrete reply to the query of the committee as to how it arrived at Rs 98,000 crore as the budget estimate for MGNREGA at the proposed demand stage nor was it able to put forward any concrete mode of action to deal with the probable dearth of funds at this point of time, the panel said.

It expressed dissatisfaction with the approach elicited by the Department of Rural Development (DoRD) in handling an issue of such importance which could lead to hampering of the work under MGNREGA due to fund shortage.

“Such a scenario will not augur well for the poor rural workers under MGNREGA as want of funds could stall the projects creating pendency of wages, etc.

“In view of the above, the committee strongly reiterate their recommendation and urge upon the DoRD to handle the fund-related aspect of MGNREGA with a much informed and robust financial pragmatism through better coordination with the Ministry of Finance for seeking requisite allocation at the budget estimates stage every year rather than resorting to the allocation of required funds at revised estimates and supplementary stages which may hamper timely payment of wages and other payments under the scheme.” The panel said the delay in wage payments and material fund release would act as a deterrence to the needy beneficiaries of MGNREGA from getting some sort of relief from their penury.

It recommended the DoRD ensure the timely release of the Centre’s shares in wages and materials through effective measures and better coordination with states.

The DoRD in its reply to the panel was “completely silent” on the progress made by it in the reduction of pending liabilities, the committee said.

“The committee finds such reply evasive in nature and may lead to lopsided implementation of MGNREGA. Therefore, the committee once again urges the DoRD to not shy away from their responsibility and initiate concrete measures to reduce and finally end the existence of pendency in the release of wage/material share of the Centre through result-oriented and concerted efforts,” it said. 

(This report has been published as part of the auto-generated syndicate wire feed. Apart from the headline, no editing has been done in the copy by ABP Live.)

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