New Delhi: Thanks to the early unveiling of the Union Budget in 2017, the ministry of rural development has released Rs23,443.09 crore to the states for the first time in April as the first tranche of resources for the financial year 2017-18 under the flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
The money, disbursed on Monday according to a statement from the ministry, is to be spent to clear payments due in the last quarter of the year 2016-17 as well as ensure that emphasis is given to water conservation efforts. The meteorological department has predicted temperatures of at least one degree Celsius above normal in northwest and central India between April and June.
Normally, the first tranche of resources for MGNREGS gets released in July—given that the budget gets presented on 28 February and passed by Parliament in May when it meets after a month-long recess. But with the budget being presented on 1 February and passed on 31 March, there is quicker disbursal of funds meant for programmes like MGNREGS.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley identified the rural sector and social development programmes as one of the nine priority areas that he focussed on in his budget for 2017-18. MGNREGS has been allocated Rs48,000 crore in this year’s budget. Last year, the rural development ministry and the states spent Rs58,000 crore on MGNREGS.
In a letter to all state chief secretaries, rural development secretary Amarjeet Sinha requested them “to accord top most priority to water conservation works under MGNREGS”, the ministry statement said. There will be special attention on drought prone regions and districts receiving inadequate rainfall.
“The Government is laying considerable emphasis on Water Conservation and Water Management works under MGNREGS. All States have been advised to ensure that such works are taken up wherever required with appropriate technical and scientific scrutiny,” the ministry statement said.
“In collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources, Mission Water Conservation Guidelines have been developed and shared with the States. A list of 2,264 water-stressed village blocks, as ascertained from the Ministry of Water Resources, has been prepared. These village blocks are located in 324 districts of 21 States. In a recent communication to the states, the Ministry has advised the states to ensure not less than 65% expenditure on Natural Resource Management (NRM) Activities,” it said.
There are 155 kinds of work permissible under MGNREGS. Of these, 100 are related to natural resource management.
Besides, states have been instructed to ensure that work is available to poor households on a priority basis, the statement said. A campaign to ensure a job card for every household that reported deprivation in the 2011 Socio-Economic Caste Census has been launched, it added.