Representational Image | Photo: Mathrubhumi Archives
New Delhi: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development has expressed concern to note that the Budget Estimates for Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme MGNREGS has been reduced by Rs 29,400 crore for 2023-24 when compared to Revised Estimates of 2022-23.
" ... concerned to note that the Budget Estimates for MGNREGS has been reduced by Rs 29,400 crore for 2023-24 when compared to Revised Estimates of 2022-23. The Act governing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme provides 'Right to Work' to such deprived sections of the rural populace who are willing to work," said the Committee's 29th report on Demand for Grants (2023-24).
The report noted that the scheme is a last resort of succor for the jobless section who do not have any other means to feed them and their family members.
The role and importance of MGNREGA was visible during the Corona pandemic times when it acted as a ray of hope for the needy in times of distress.
"The importance of the scheme itself got highlighted through the substantially huge increment at the RE stage in 2020-21 and 2021-22 from Rs 61,500 crore to Rs 1,11,500 crore and Rs 73,000 crore to Rs 99,117.53 crore, respectively, to meet the increase in demand of work during the Covid pandemic.
Even during the ongoing Financial Year 2022-23, the funds for MGNREGA has been increased to Rs 89,400 crore at RE stage from Rs 73,000 crore at the BE stage.
However, for the Financial Year 2023-24, at the starting stage itself, MGNREGA has been allocated Rs 60,000 crore against the proposed demand of Rs 98,000 crore by the Department of Rural Development.
"The Committee are unable to comprehend the rationale for reduced allocation of funds under MGNREGA," said the report.
Since it is very much necessary that adequate Budgetary Allocation ought to be made for the effective implementation of the Scheme, the Committee strongly feel the requirement for the matter of decreased fund allocation to be looked afresh, said the report.
The Committee strongly recommended that the Department of Rural Development apprise themselves of the still existing high demand for jobs under MGNREGA at the ground level more realistically and utilise their communications and administrative skill to press upon the Ministry of Finance for increased allocation to MGNREGA.