Budget 2017: Social sector

Rural employment scheme gets highest-ever funding

The government is also using space technology in a big way to plan MGNREGA works. File photo.   | Photo Credit: B. Velankanni Raj

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), once described by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a “living monument of the UPA’s failure,” got its highest ever allocation — ₹48,000 crore — since its inception over a decade ago.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, however, indicated that the funds dispensed would come under increased digital scrutiny. “The initiative to geo-tag all MGNREGA assets and put them in the public domain has established greater transparency. We are also using space technology in a big way to plan MGNREGA works,” he said.

Last June, the Rural Development Ministry had signed an agreement with the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), ISRO, Hyderabad, for geo-tagging assets. This involves the use of ‘Bhuvan’, a web-based application developed by ISRO that gives a three-dimensional map of the globe. Geo-tagging can help track the location and development status of, say, a pond or a bridge, funded by MGNREGA and located in any of India’s 6 lakh villages. The geo-tagging exercise, according to an ISRO press statement, is a three-part programme and will eventually allow citizens to report on the state of a project and be made available to village panchayats.

‘An eyewash’

MGNREGA, enacted in 2005, is a UPA initiative to enhance livelihood security of the rural people by guaranteeing 100 days of wages in a financial year for adults willing to take up unskilled manual work. Around 30 lakh assets are created annually across the country under the rural job scheme, which includes water harvesting, drought relief and flood control as preferred activities. The geo-tagging initiative follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s directive to check leakages and effectively map the terrain for future developmental works.

Aruna Roy of the Mazdoor Kisan Sangathan dismissed the budgetary raise as eyewash as it downplayed the huge arrears. “…The increase is a mere 1%, of ₹500 crore, as two supplementary allocations during the course of the year made the total budget of 2016-17 ₹47,500 crore,” she said in a statement. “At present, 54% of the wage payments continue to be delayed and, as a result, ₹231 crores in compensation to workers also remains due.”

Drinking water scheme

In a bid to ensure safe drinking water to over 28,000 arsenic and fluoride affected habitations in the next four years, the government will start a sub-mission of the National Rural Drinking Water Programme.

In this year’s budget, the allocation for the Rural Development Ministry has also been increased by more than 10 per cent to ₹1,07,758 crore from ₹97,760 crore.

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 3:54:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/budget/Rural-employment-scheme-gets-highest-ever-funding/article17130927.ece

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