NEW DELHI: During the Zero Hour in Lok Sabha on Thursday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi voiced concern over the budgetary cut for the rural employment guarantee scheme (MGNREGS). She contended that several states have a negative balance in their accounts to the tune of Rs 5,000 crore which has led to delays in payments to workers.
Gandhi further suggested the government make adequate allocations to MGNREGS, a scheme that had helped poor and marginalised people during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensured payments within 15 days.
Gandhi said the MGNREGS, which was mocked by some persons, had provided timely help to crores of poor families during the pandemic and played a positive role in helping the government. "Still, there is a regular reduction in the budgetary allocation for MGNREGS. This year the budget for MGNREGS is 35 per cent less than that of 2020. This comes at a time when unemployment is rising continuously," she said.
However, Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh and I&B Minister Anurag Thakur hit back, accusing her of "politicising" the issue. The ministers stated that her remarks were "far from the truth".
"The issue raised is far from the truth. The budgetary allocation for MGNREGS in 2013-14 (UPA years) was Rs 33,000 crore, whereas under Prime Minister Narendra Modi it had reached Rs 1.12 lakh crore. No need to show us the mirror," Singh said.
Gandhi also said that the states were told that their labour budget will not be approved unless they meet conditions related to social audit. "Social audit should be made effective but workers can't be punished by stopping the money for this. I request the Centre to allocate adequate funds, ensure payment within 15 days of work, and pay compensation in case of delay," she said.