Rural Ministry wants additional Rs 17,000 cr for MGNREGS

Amid droughts in some parts of the country, the Rural Development Ministry plans to seek an additional Rs 17,000 crore allocation for rural job guarantee scheme

Rural Ministry wants additional Rs 17,000 cr for MGNREGS

In view of deficient rainfall in various parts of the country, there are more demand for works under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). As per government estimates, current allocation for the Scheme may not meet the surging work demand in rural areas and to address this challenge the Rural Development Ministry plans to seek additional Rs 17,000 crore for the current fiscal.

In the financial year 2017-18, of the Rs 48,000 crore budget allocation, Rs 34,000 crore has already been utilised. The Ministry is likely to seek additional funds from the Finance Ministry in the next supplementary. According to media reports, States including Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra have suffered due to drought situation. These States reported a surge in MGNREGS demand in August and the situation is being monitored at the highest level.

So far in this financial year, 116 crore person days of work has been generated under the scheme with 84 percent timely payments made to the workers. In 2016-17, MGNREGS accounted for 235 crore person days of labour.

The scheme provides up to 100 days of manual work for any rural household seeking work, which can be increased to 150 days if required. Ensuring timely payments is one of the biggest challenges for the government, especially in times when states are reeling under drought. The Supreme Court too had come down heavily on the Centre for delay in payments under the rural jobs scheme.

From June 1, there has been a deficit of 5 percent in the total rainfall, according to the India Meteorological Department. The scheme could face additional cost if the government decides to change the wage revision methodology and switches to the use of Consumer Price Index-rural instead of CPI-agricultural labour.

The change was recently recommended by a committee formed to look into the wage calculation methodology. According to initial estimates, shifting the price index would cost an additional Rs 600 crore to the government.

In order to ensure that states are prepared for demand for work and are able to make timely payments, the government released Rs 23,443 crore which was half of the total budget allocation of Rs 48,000 for MGNREGA in April 2017 itself. The rural development ministry plans to release the balance to states in September.

The government has set a target of generating 215 crore person days under the scheme this year. States have also been told to geotag the assets created under MGNREGS for greater transparency and accountability at the field level.

Nearly 1 crore of the total 2.82 crore assets created under MGNREGS have been geotagged as part of an initiative by  the Rural Development Ministry, National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), ISRO and National Informatics Centre.

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