New Delhi, Feb 29: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday allocated Rs 38,500 crore to MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), which is the highest ever by an NDA government. In the 2015-16 Budget, Jaitley had earmarked Rs 34,699 crore for the scheme, while promising to enhance the allocation by another Rs 5,000 crore given there is tax buoyancy.
Budget allocation for MGNREGA over the years (in graph)
It is quite an irony that Jaitley increased the allocation for the MGNREGA, a scheme which promises hundred days of employment each year to every rural household and completed a decade this month.
In the past, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had mocked the MGNREGA as a "living monument" of the Congress-led UPA government which had implemented it 10 years ago. He also told the Opposition in Parliament once that he understands politics well and would keep the scheme alive to remind people of the Congress's legacy.
But it looks his government finds the MGNREGA a more useful tool to reach out to people than not. Though Opposition parties and activists accused the government of trying to dilute the scheme, the NDA government claimed earlier this month that it had transformed the rural job scheme which was in a pathetic state under the UPA because of reduction of funds.
Jaitley had told that the scheme underwent changes during the NDA's time and new avenues were being found to raise allocation of funds for the scheme so that people ultimately benefited.
The highest-ever allocation of funds for MGNREGA occurred in the budget of 2010-11, when Rs 40,0100 crore were earmarked. In the 2011-12 fiscal, Rs 40,00 crore were earmarked.