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Budget 2019: Funds for MGNREGA scheme hiked by Rs 5,000 Crore

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New Delhi, Feb 1: Interim Finance Minister Piyush Goyal has hiked funds for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in a politically significant year.The government allocated Rs 60,000 crore for a key scheme aimed at the rural poor.

Budget 2019: Funds hiked for MGNREGA scheme

The scheme under MGNREGA promises unskilled manual work to every adult for at least 100 days in rural parts of the country. It was introduced by UPA -I in 2005 .

It may be recalled that then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley allocated Rs 55,000 crore for MNREGS for the financial year 2018-19, signalling the government's continued intent to address concerns of rural distress. In Budget 2017-18, the finance ministry had initially allocated Rs 48,000 crore for the world's largest job guarantee scheme. Later, the rural development ministry has twice sought additional funds from the finance ministry.

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According to government data, total availability of funds under NREGS has been Rs 58,403.69 crore (2018-19), Rs 68,107.86 crore (2017-18), Rs 57,386.67 crore (2016-17), Rs 43,380.72 crore (2015-16) and Rs 37,588.03 crore (2014-15). Total expenditure has been Rs 51,510.82 crore (2018-19), Rs 63,646.41 crore (2017-18), Rs 58,062.92 crore (2016-17), Rs 44,002.59 crore (2015-16) and Rs 36,025.04 crore (2014-15).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has kept his vow to continue the scheme 'which is proof of your [Congress] failings'. In 2015, PM took a took clear shot at the Opposition Congress over the rural employment scheme vowing, "I will ensure MNREGA is never discontinued. It is proof of your failings. 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."

Modi said he will ensure that the scheme is fortified. "You will give me credit for this at least - that I have some rajneetik sudhbudh (political acumen)," he said. "This is why MNREGA will stay." Sonia Gandhi, the Congress president, looked on stoically.

However, the employment scheme comes a major tool to tackle rural ditress rather than as a failings of the 'Congress rule'.

After Business Standard reported that, between 2017-'18, unemployment numbers in India reached a 45-year high a political storm was kicked off. The newspaper based its report on a survey, conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation, called the Periodic Labour Force Survey that the government had not made public.

According to the report, the country's unemployment rate climbed from 2.2% in 2011-'12 to 6.1% in 2018-'18. Once disaggregated, these numbers look even worse. Joblessness is higher in urban areas than rural areas - 7.8% versus 5.3%. For instance, unemployment among rural men in the age group of 15-29 years rose from 5 per cent in 2011-'12 to 17.4 per cent.

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