Millennium Post

Centre chops off Rs 3,000 cr from MGNREGS funds

Holding Narendra Modi-led NDA government responsible for “brutally” cutting down the funds meant for social rights of poor people, civil society organisations alleged that the Centre has slashed Rs 3,000 crore from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in the current fiscal.

While dubbing the move of Modi government as anti-people, Mazdoor Kishan Shakti Sangthan (MKSS) activist Nikhil Dey said: “This is a ‘brutal’ attack on democracy, which will pave the way for huge social unrest in the years to come. These moves clearly indicate the motive of Modi government is to dilute the populist scheme.’

Giving details about the fund cut, Dey further said, ‘On papers, the present government has retained the previous government’s fund allocation of Rs 34,000 crore for the rural job scheme, but the fact is that out of this amount Rs 9,000 crore is the arrear of the last fiscal. In that way the actual fund will come to about Rs 25,000 crore and after deducting a cut of Rs 3,000 crore, the total fund for rural job scheme will be Rs 22,000 crore only.’ Dey called it a gross violation of human rights.

Refuting the ‘no demand form states’ theory of union government, Dipa Sinha of Right to Food Campaign, said, “This logic of government is totally self-made as many states have been not given funds on time. There are 10 states which have sought more resources from the Centre in the last couple of months for this scheme.” Notably, four states among the 10 such as Telangana, Jharkhand, Tripura and West Bengal have passed a resolution in the assembly to not to discontinue the rural job programme, while six other states — Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh — has written to the government for not diluting the scheme.

Accusing Centre of delaying fund allocation to states, Sinha, said, ‘The government ‘deliberately’ delaying the payment to states, so that states would not be able to pay wages to workers on time, resulting into disorientation of workers from the rural job scheme’, adding that there are 10 states which has About 10 States have sought more resources from the Union Government in the past couple of months.

The activists also said while the government could be trying to generate funds for some of its initiatives such as Smart Cities, Ganga Rejuvenation, and Swachh Bharat, it should avoid pitting these against other development schemes. “Instead, the Government should try to expand the size of the Union Budget (as a proportion of GDP) by increasing the country’s tax-GDP ratio,” Dey added.

Questioning the role of government for taking such harsh steps, civil society activists, including economists Prabhat Patnaik, Praveen Jha, Jayati Ghosh, have called for a wider public debate on the reported move to curtail social sector spending on rural job scheme, other major centrally sponsored schemes.

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