New Delhi: The government’s delay in convening the monsoon session of Parliament, which should have been called in July, is beginning to hurt its flagship employment generation programme which is running out of funds and needs parliamentary?nod?before more funds can be allocated to it.
The rural development ministry, which is in charge of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, has already informed the finance ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) about the impending crisis in the programme that provides employment to at least one member of poor rural households.
The possibility of termination or suspension of the populist programme is badly timed from the ruling United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, government’s perspective: It comes in the run-up to elections in key states such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Delhi later this year, and ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections.
According to government officials familiar with the development who do not wish to be named, the rural development ministry had got a budgetary support of Rs16,000 crore for 2008-09, with the understanding that further requirements for the period would be funded through supplementary grants. Supplementary grants are issued by the government, after Parliament’s approval, when the expenditure allocated under a particular head is found insufficient for the year.
The officials added that of the Rs16,000 crore, they had already distributed Rs14,000 crore to district administrations to pay beneficiaries of the scheme. In July, the rural development ministry sought a supplementary grant of Rs8,000 crore to keep the scheme going till December.
Rural development ministry secretary Rita Sharma said the ministry was “trying to do its best in the given situation”. Parliamentary affairs minister Vayalar Ravi could not be reached for comment and the PMO did not respond to a query on the issue.
Parliament’s monsoon session usually starts in the third week of July and while Ravi had earlier announced that it would start on 11 August, he subsequently said it would be deferred until the middle of September because the government wanted to focus all its energies on resolving the crisis in Jammu and Kashmir where the allocation of land to a temple board and its revocation later have snowballed into a larger controversy.
“Monsoon might be over by the time the government finally dares to call the session,” said Prakash Javadekar, a national spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) , the principal opposition party.
The BJP and the Left Front, have both accused the UPA of fighting shy of facing Parliament because it wants to avoid discussing issues such as inflation and terror attacks.
“We are not running away from Parliament,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.