Often under attack over alleged poor execution of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA) scheme, Government on Tuesday claimed the average person days employment generated per household last fiscal was highest in eight years at 49 days even as there was improvement in timely payment of wages under the livelihood programme during the span.
In its report titled, ‘Performance, Initiatives and Strategies FY 2015-16 and FY 2016-17’, the government claimed that a total of 235 crore person days’ work were generated last year.
The programme, the report said, could reach irrigation potential in 46.43 lakh hectares with a range of natural resource management initiatives - ponds, dams, wells, check dams, afforestation, land development, water shed management works, etc and benefited 33.61 lakh people.
55 per cent of the total beneficiaries were women, a large quantum of whom is from scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and other vulnerable sections, the report states.
Union Rural Development Minister Birender Singh, who released the report at a national conference of state Panchayati Raj Ministers here, claimed the timely payment of wages resulted in bringing back beneficiaries - who had distanced themselves from the scheme due to delay in wage payments - back to the programme.
“The 49-day average is highest in past eight years. The previous highest was 46. Also, last year the MGNREGA budget was Rs 37,000 crore, while the expenditure stands at Rs 43,000 crore plus.
So, the expenditure is additional Rs 6,000 crore. 235 crore person days is also a five-year record,” Singh told reporters.
He added, “What I want to say is the MGNREGA beneficiary - who had distanced himself from the scheme, because of delay in payment, frauds committed, resulting in falls in man days from 212 crore man days to 153 crore man days - he has again taken interest in the work with the man days going up to 235 crore.”
Singh said the government took several measures to ensure benefits reach those deserving and listed preparation of job cards with the help of AADHAR, crediting funds to beneficiaries through Electronic Fund Management System and others as part of the efforts.
Singh also rejected claims that the scheme’s implementation has been poor in BJP-ruled states like Goa Gujarat and Haryana. According to the report, no household was benefited through individual asset creation in these states. “The performance has not been poor. In many states, people do not come to fore for MGNREGA works because there are other works to do which offer better payments,” he added.
On complaints, especially from drought-hit areas, that beneficiaries did not get enough works, the Minister said that the onus of generating jobs rested with gram panchayats and state governments concerned.
The Centre’s role, he added, was to ensure wage payments in accordance with the amount of work generated.