Barely a year after criticising the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) as an example of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's failures, the Narendra Modi government on Monday hailed the scheme, saying its achievements are a "cause of national pride and celebration".
On the eve of flagship rural job guarantee scheme completing 10 years on February 2, the government also said the last financial year had seen a 'revival' of the programme. It said the focus in the coming years would be to simplify the procedures and build sustainable assets to benefit the poor.
Some announcements are expected on Tuesday, when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will deliver a keynote address at MGNREGA Sammelan-2016 in New Delhi.
The government said, in a statement, the expenditure on the programme since inception has touched Rs 3,13,845 crore, of which 71 per cent has been spent on wage payments to workers.
"Of the workers, the percentage of Scheduled Caste workers has consistently been about 20 per cent and Scheduled Tribe workers has been 17 per cent," it said, adding that a total of 19.8 billion person-days have been generated so far, out of which the percentage worked by women has steadily increased much above the statutory minimum of 33 per cent.
"Sustainable assets have been created linked to conservation of natural resources and overall development of gram panchayats. More than 65 per cent of the works taken up under the programme are linked to agriculture and allied activities," it said. "The person-day generation is the highest in the second quarter (459 million) and third quarter (461 million) than it has been in the past five years," the government said, adding that there will be renewed focus on sustainable individual assets to benefit the poor and vulnerable households under the scheme in future.
To mark the completion of 10 years of NREGA - announced by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi in February 2006 - Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will on Tuesday visit Bandlapalli village of Anantpur in Andhra Pradesh from where the scheme had taken off.
In February last year, Modi had lashed out at the Congress for what he described as a 'monument of the UPA government's failures'.
JOB SCHEME AT A GLANCE
"MGNREGA should stay as a proof of your failings. I will ensure MGNREGA is never discontinued. After so many years of being in power, all you were able to deliver is for a poor man to dig ditches a few days a month"
In February 2015
"MGNREGA's achievements of a decade are a cause of national pride and celebration"
In February 2016
MGNREGA ALLOCATION UNDER NDA REGIME
Jaitley allocates Rs 34,699 crore to the scheme for 2015-16; tops it up with Rs 7,000 crore, making it the highest-ever allocation for any year
In 2015-16: The person-day generation is the highest in the second quarter (459 million) and third quarter (461 million) than it has been in the last five years
- Big boost expected in next year's Budget as well
MGNREGA notified on September 7, 2005; first in 200 districts; all country covered since 2008
MGNREGA credited with bringing UPA back to power in 2009
Around Rs 313,844.55 crore has been spent, of this 71 per cent has been spent on wage payments to workers since 2005
More than 65 per cent of the works linked to agriculture and allied activities
- Total 20 billion person-days generated so far
A 2013 CAG report showed only 20 per cent of total allocated fund under the scheme has been released for Bihar, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, which account for 46 per cent of the rural poor in India from 2009-10 to 2011-12
A study by former CACP head Ashok Gulati showed real farm wages rose by almost 6.8 per cent per annum from 2006-07 onwards but the impact of overall GDP, agriculture GDP and construction GDP was almost 4-6 times higher than the MGNREGA
MGNREGS spending fluctuated between 2010-11 and 2013-14, while growth in rural wages declined consistently from 20.61 per cent in 2010-11 to 10.12 per cent in 2013-14
But, a 2015 study done by NCAER showed that the Act has helped in lowering poverty by almost 32 per cent between 2004-05 to 2011-12
- In October 2014, a group of around 30 leading economists from India and abroad wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to dilute or restrict the provisions of MGNREGA