Union Minister for Rural Development (MoRD), Drinking Water and Sanitation and Panchayati Raj Birender Singh lauded the Union Budget 2016-17 for its pro-farmer and pro-village thrust and said that it will transform the rural India by economically empowering the poor people. Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, the Minister said, for the first time more than one lakh crore has been earmarked for the three Ministries with the Rural Development Ministry alone getting the lion’s share of more than Rs 87, 000 crore.
Singh said that this government has given a new impetus to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) as it has increased the allocation by over Rs 3,800 crore in 2016-17 at Rs 38,500 crore, while it was Rs 34,699 crore in the last fiscal. He said, if the total amount is spent, it will be the highest budget spend on MGNREGA and added that there will be no dearth of fund for the rural job scheme as it is a demand driven programme. He said, MGNREGA is not only about job creation, but also about quality asset creation and for this every panchayat has started keeping a record. The Minister said that steps are being taken to address the problems like leakages and delay in payments by linking the payment through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and simplification of procedures. He said that from January 1, 2016, all payments under MGNREGA in Kerala is done through Direct Benefit Transfer by its linkage with Aadhaar and by the end of this year 10 more states will implement the DBT scheme.
Terming the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) as the most successful scheme of the Rural Development Ministry, the minister said that for the first time Rs.19,000 crore was allocated in the 2016-17 budget, which is more than double the annual allocation of 2013-14. He said, through a network of 466,044 kms of rural roads, PMGSY has successfully connected 64 per cent (1,14,540) of the eligible habitations (1,78,184) so far and all rural road works will be completed by March 31, 2019, three years ahead of targeted year of 2022.
On the issue of rural housing, the Minister informed that soon a new scheme called Housing for All will be announced to construct 2 crore 95 lakh houses and the Ministry has proposed to double the amount from the existing Rs 70,000 for plain areas and Rs 75,000 in hilly and difficult areas to construct each dwelling unit. In this year’s budget Rs 15,000 crore was allocated for Indira Aawas Yojana, which is the highest ever allocation for the scheme. Singh said, the BPL-APL differentiation will also be done away with in the new housing scheme and money will be given to beneficiaries based on Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data.
Singh said through convergence of different schemes and through watershed scheme of the Ministry of Rural Development, more than 4 lakh hectares of arid land will be brought under irrigation this year which will considerably boost the farm income.
The Minister also informed that the Prime Minister has recently launched the Rurban Mission to develop 300 village clusters by creating basic infrastructure in them and Rs 5,000 crore was allocated for this purpose. He said, through a range of programmes in rural development, government is making efforts to address the multi-dimensionality of poverty.