NEW DELHI: The completion of 10 years of the MGNREGA on Tuesday saw the Congress and the NDA government arguing over who deserved the credit for the scheme and its implementation, through a Twitter spat and programmes.
One thing was clear though, the legislation-backed welfare scheme is here to stay. Vilified and feted in equal measure since its inception, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has, of late, come to be seen as a respite for a rural economy reeling under agrarian distress.
So, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took digs at the government for its ‘U-turn’ on the scheme. The Modi Government shot back saying it had rescued the scheme from poor implementation and leakages under the UPA and streamlined it to better reach its target group.
The former PM accused the current dispensation of attempting to “kill the soul and spirit” of MGNREGA, even as Gandhi charged the Government with undergoing a change of heart. “After calling NREGA ‘living monument of INC failure’ Govt now hails it as cause of ‘nat pride & celebration’…” he tweeted.
The Congress leader also blamed the Government for withholding payments to states for MNREGA works. “In 2014-15 alone, GOI did not make payment of `6,000 crores to states (which have) already executed NREGA works,” he said, visiting Andhra Pradesh where the scheme was launched.
Picking up the cue, AICC media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala claimed the government had been working towards watering down “the landmark rights-based legislation” — one of the largest welfare programme in the world.
Surjewala claimed the number of families getting 100 days of guaranteed work under fixed minimum wages, had been “systematically brought down by half”. Whereas 51,73,487 families got 100 days of work in 2012-13, only 20,24,161 families got 100 days of work in 2015-16. Countering the Congress charge that the scheme was languishing under the NDA, Rural Development Minister Choudhury Birender Singh — a former Congressman — said the functioning of scheme would improve since all payments would be made through Direct Benefit Transfer to the beneficiaries’ bank accounts.