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New Delhi: Following the presentation of the Union Budget 2022-23 in Parliament on Tuesday, February 1, the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, on Wednesday, issued a statement criticising the government for what it calls a “ridiculously low budget allocation” for the national rural employment scheme.
The statement notes that the new budget allocation for the Union ministry of rural development marks a 12% decrease from last year’s budget whereas the allocation for the NREGA specifically remained the same as last year at Rs 73,000 crore, despite the government having spent Rs 98,000 crore on the plan last year.
What’s more, the statement notes that there are pending liabilities under the scheme to the tune of Rs 18,350, effectively putting this year’s allocation at Rs 54,650 crore.
On January 30, the Morcha had put the conservative estimate required to provide all job card holders (9.94 crore people) with the mandated 100 days of gainful employment at the rate of Rs 334 at Rs 3.34 lakh crore.
NSM network wrote to @PMOIndia , @MoRD_GOI & released a press note demanding an adequate budget for FY 2022-23 and our other expectations from the upcoming budget session. @IndiaMGNREGA @samalochana @PBKMS_ @nikhilmkss @LibtechIndia @PAEG_India @rajendran_naray @rozi_roti pic.twitter.com/mkIy9327if
— NREGA Sangharsh (@NREGA_Sangharsh) January 30, 2022
As the statement notes, the current budget allocation will only be able to provide the same, at the same rate, with 16 days of employment.
The statement further notes that the Union Budget allocation for the NREGA has consistently been insufficient since 2015-16, saying that “80-90% of the budget gets exhausted within the first six months, resulting in heavy slowdown of work on the ground.”
“Notwithstanding rural distress, implementing NREGA is a legal obligation of the central government,” the statement reads. “However, the demand-driven nature of the Act has been repeatedly stifled in letter and spirit. By severe rationing of funds, it has been made a supply driven programme.”
The statement goes on to note the importance of the NREGA during the coronavirus pandemic, helping India negotiate widespread unemployment in the wake of the “unilaterally imposed national lockdown” in 2020.
It also notes that the Union government spent Rs 1.11 lakh crore on the scheme in FY’ 2020-21 to provide work to 11 crore workers. The next year, the government reduced the allocation by 34%, which impacted employment generation and led to the government eventually allocating an additional 25,000 crore to create more employment. Yet, the government still kept the allocation the same in the recent Union Budget.
The members of the Morcha expressed deep disappointment in the Union Budget vis-a-vis allocations for rural employment and the NREGA, urging the government to allocate more funds for the programme within the month.
“The government has once again failed millions of its rural citizens who depend on the rural employment guarantee programme for meeting their life needs,” the statement concludes.