Union Minister for Rural Development Birender Singh has reiterated that there will be no dilution of MGNREGA and the rural job scheme will continue to remain as one of the flagship schemes of the NDA Government. Replying to a Calling Attention Motion in the Rajya Sabha on the reported move of the Government to introduce changes in the MGNREGs by reducing the wage component of the fund allocation and restricting the areas of work, the Minister emphasised that the rural job scheme will remain operational in all the 6,500 Blocks and will not be restricted to 2,500 Blocks as being alleged by some of the members.
Singh also made it clear that the wage-material ratio of 60:40 will never be allowed to cross and informed the members that during the last 8 years around Rs 1,80,000 crores have been paid as wages to the workers, which is around 71 percent of the total expenditure made till date. Besides, in order to have adequate number of technical assistants on the ground to supervise and ensure the creation of quality assets, the Ministry has allowed the States for payment of remuneration of technical assistants/barefoot engineers from the skilled wage (material) component of the work. Moreover, the wage material ratio for works taken up by agencies other than Gram Panchayats would now be counted at the district level (instead of block level) to facilitate taking up more durable assets. He said, 21 States have formulated their State Convergence Plans in consultation with various line departments in this regard.
Allaying the apprehensions of the members regarding budgetary cuts, Singh said, the budget provision under the MGNREGS in 2013-14 was Rs. 33,000 crores, while in the current financial year 2014-15 the budget provision is Rs. 34,000 crores, so there is no question of any financial pruning as far as the rural job scheme is concerned. He also added that this Act has ensured considerable financial inclusion with around 9.76 crore accounts of MGNREGA workers being in Banks and Post Offices.
The Minister said, over the last eight years of its implementation, MGNREGA has achieved significant results. On an average around 5 crore households, which is close to 29 percent of the total rural households, are provided employment under the scheme every year. Around 54 percent of MGNREGA workers are women and close to 40% are SCs & STs. Singh said, as per recent Performance Audit conducted by the C&AG, around 90 percent of the beneficiaries were either casual labourers or small or marginal farmers. It is also an important source of income for families susceptible to distress migration in view of limited work opportunities.