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The 10th anniversary celebrations of MGNREGA today set off a political slugfest with the NDA government saying it has "transformed" UPA's flagship rural jobs scheme giving it record funds to boost economic growth while Rahul Gandhi mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
As the government took on Congress over cut in funds for MGNREGA during UPA-II, the former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah hit out at BJP, saying it is "never tired" of criticising the scheme launched by UPA government led by Manmohan Singh and are now selling it as if it was their "gift" to the nation.
At a seminar organised by Rural Development Ministry on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said for the first time ever additional funds over and above the Budgeted allocation will be provided to the rural employment guarantee scheme this year.
Asserting that schemes are "not cast in stone" and their modification is required with the passage of time, he said MGNREGA underwent change under NDA and new initiatives were taken besides increasing the fund allocation to the scheme so that its benefits could reach the people in a better way.
While in previous years there has always been lower spending as compared to the Budgeted amount, this fiscal the government has not cut Plan Expenditure as it wants to boost growth.
"This government has not followed the practice of just making higher provisions and later cutting it. Perhaps this would be the first year when the Rs 34,000-35,000 crore which was allocated has not only been spent fully, but also some more resources could be given to MGNREGA," he said.
The Finance Minister said the actual spending under the scheme in the fiscal year ending March 31 "would be highest".
"...Transformation has been brought in the implementation of this scheme. When a government scheme runs for many years, an attitude of indifference develops towards it. A kind of indifference towards it was growing by 2013-14 when the scheme has entered its seventh and eight years.
Rahul mocked Modi saying his government's praise of the MGNREGA is a "shining example" of his "political wisdom" as he only had called the UPA's job guarantee scheme in his Parliament speech a "living monument of Congress" failure.
"After calling NREGA 'living monument of INC failure' Govt now hails it as cause of 'nat pride & celebration'! Shining eg of Modiji's pol wisdom", the Congress Vice President said in a tweet.
Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh said that in last 19 months, people availing the scheme have benefited in the true sense and were contended due to correct implementation of the scheme.
Minister of State for Rural Development Sudarshan Bhagat said the condition of MGNREGA was "quite pitiable" in the beginning of the 2014-15 when UPA was in power and claimed that it was the NDA government which gave the maximum funding for the scheme.
Singh said the "transformation (which happened) in last 18 months" of the NDA rule, "did not happen in last 10 years".