The Budget has been a far too secretive and hidden exercise. Social sector expenditure and allocations related to policy announcements should be matters of open ongoing debate.
Even as schemes have received minimal allocations, this budget signals an important shift in the political narrative. Gone is the focus on jobs, skills, aspirations and empowerment.
Vinod Dua breaks down the Union Budget 2018.
According to the opposition, the budget is mere ‘lip-service paid in the name of the farmers and the poor’ and will not have any real impact.
While the Rs 55,000 crore earmarked for this year is technically the highest since the scheme’s inception, it’s the same when taking into account the supplementary allocations infused last year and the scheme’s pending liabilities.
The NDA, one of the most anti-poor, anti-farmer, anti-rural governments in India’s history, is likely to finally be forced to put some resources aside for the social sector.
According to the study, the Centre is under-calculating the compensation it owes to the workers for the delay in wage payment.
In 2016-17, pending payments under the employment scheme in the state amounted to a whopping Rs 5,571 crore.
A study in December 2016 reported 40% and 32% job losses in the age groups of 40-55 and 22-30 years respectively during the first 50 days of demonetisation.
The NREGA workers group has blamed the Central government, banks and post offices for the delays in payment of lakhs of workers.
Despite widespread violations of workers’ entitlements, the BJP government as well as the opposition have shown nothing but apathy.
Low budget, poor pay, delays in payment are being used as tools to lower the interest of people in the scheme, say activists.
“Today, women account for 56% of the MGNREGA workers. Unlike minimum wages, under MGNREGA, equal wages are paid to both men and women.”
The report saying that there was “no compelling reason to align MGNREGA and states’ minimum wages again”. Wages paid under the Act were last adjusted to meet minimum pay in 2009.
Union minister of state for home affairs Hansraj G. Ahir said that setting up cow sanctuaries at the district level can help prevent incidents of cow slaughter and violence related to cow vigilantism.
With the help of development workers from a non-profit, Barkheda’s villagers are using the commons for the mutual benefit of the community at large.
A combined effort by both the Centre and the states is necessary to implement Acts, especially welfare schemes like the Food Security Act, to ensure people have a better quality of life.
While some people allege they have been excluded from the MGNREGA system altogether because their Aadhaar cards weren’t linked, others say wages are going into wrong accounts because of incorrect seeding.
In 2011, the minimum daily wage and the MGNREGA wage in Bihar was Rs 120, today the minimum daily wage has increased to Rs 232 per day but the MGREGA wage is Rs 168.
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Despite a committee recommending a new method of wage calculation, the Narendra Modi government has failed to increase salaries under the MGNREGA in real terms.
The Centre has put in place regulations that systematically calculate less than the payable compensation
Most technocratic interventions introduced in MGNREGA appear to be designed to aid administrators rather than for actually helping workers.
As the next hearing in the matter of Swaraj Abhiyan vs Union of India approaches, activists are trying to raise awareness on the deep-rooted problems in MGNREGA implementation.
Of this, 63.3% is for MGNREGA project materials, 34.6% for wage payments to labourers and the remaining for administrative costs.
By making “insidious” changes to the system, the rural development ministry is trying to curb workers’ rights, says People’s Action for Employment Guarantee.
In Gujarat’s Chhota Udaipur, MNREGA has helped villagers increase their earnings, improved connectivity in the area and led to higher farm yields.
While most policy discourse tends to argue for an increase in healthcare spending to improve overall services, little attention is paid to the quality of healthcare facilities.
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Providing a UBI in place of existing schemes will not change the fundamentally unequal income distribution in the country. The way to resolve the crisis is a redistribution from the rich to the poor.
There is no evidence to show that introducing Aadhaar identification into the employment guarantee Act will reduce corruption, while chances are it will increase the struggles of vulnerable citizens.
Notifications for the MGNREGA and EPS programmes show the effect of new UIDAI regulations and how mandatory requirements are carefully couched so as to not openly violate the Supreme Court’s order.
How does GoI’s failure to pay affect the everyday lives of those whom it is cheating?
The Centre’s off-record instructions through WhatsApp and a squeeze on funds made the rural work programme crash after a roaring first half of the year.
The rural development ministry unofficially informed states that no more funds will be released and existing funds will have to be used pragmatically.
Civil society bodies say the state has exaggerated data on the scheme, which suffers from large-scale delays in wage payments.
Economist and professor at the University of California, Berkeley Pranab Bardhan spoke to The Wire about global discontent amongst the working class, the Modi government’s policies, the need for employment generation, the controversy around Raghuram Rajan and more.
Renown economist JosephStiglitz specifically called out the government’s crackdown on NGOs as well as their reaction to the February 9 incident at JNU.