MGNREGA needs at least ₹2.72 lakh crore for providing 100 days of work, say activists

‘In the last financial year, the government only gave ₹73,000 crore, which is one third of the total required budget. This caused untold amount of suffering for many.’

Updated - January 31, 2023 07:32 pm IST

Published - January 31, 2023 06:10 pm IST - New Delhi

As per the activists, MGNREGA needs at least ₹2.72 lakh crore for providing 100 days of work. File

As per the activists, MGNREGA needs at least ₹2.72 lakh crore for providing 100 days of work. File | Photo Credit: G.N. Rao

The minimum budget for it in the upcoming financial year 2023-24 should be at least ₹2.72 lakh crore if the government intends to provide legally guaranteed 100 days of work per household for at least those that worked in the current financial year, Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG) and the NREGA Sangarsh Morcha said in a joint statement on Tuesday, a day before the Union Budget is tabled.

In the last Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the allocation for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme saw a 25% cut, and was granted only ₹73,000 crore. Anticipating a similar cut, the two groups of MGNREGA activists presented a report of the programme.

“In the last financial year, the government only gave ₹73,000 crore, which is one third of the total required budget. This caused untold amount of suffering for many. MGNREGA is a unique programme that the law dictates should be run by demand. But over the years, we have seen that low budgetary allocation artificially depresses the demand,” Nikhil Dey, founder, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) said.

Further explaining his point, he said that over the past five years, 21% of the MGNREGA budget goes towards clearing the arrears of the previous years. “The unpaid dues this year are already ₹16,070 crore, when 106% of the funds available have already been utilised. Assuming the expenditure trend so far in this financial year continues, we estimate that over ₹25,800 crore would be pending at the end of financial year 2022-23,” Mr. Dey added.

Also Read | ₹3,358 crore in MGNREGA wages not paid

In the ongoing financial year, as The Hindu had reported on January 21, the average number of days of employment is at a five-year low with just 42 days of work per household. According to the estimates made by the two groups, even to sustain the present record, the government will have to budget ₹1.24 lakh crore.

Annie Raja, who represents PAEG said that over the years, the government had, in the name of curbing corruption in the programme, been trying to kill the programme. “Introducing various conditions for an MGNREGA worker, and chronic delay in [paying] wages is leading to a slow poisoning of the programme,” she said.

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