New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party led National Democratic Alliance government has allocated an additional Rs. 6,084 crore to the national rural employment guarantee scheme bringing the total financial allocation for the programme to Rs. 61,084 crore in 2018-19, one of the highest amounts in recent times.

According to a government statement issued on Tuesday, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme or MGNREGS as it is known, had provided nearly 235 crore person days each year in the last three years.

In 2018-19 too, the programme will provide 235 crore person days of work, the statement said.

The announcement of additional funds for the programme comes amid reports of rural distress in parts of the country. This has been cited as one of the key reasons for the BJP losing the recently concluded state elections in the Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

According to news reports, the BJP led government at the centre is looking at providing direct benefit transfers to people below the poverty line through a universal basic income and for farmers through direct investment support in the coming days ahead of the announcement of national polls scheduled for April-May.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitely, in his 2018-19 budget, had allocated 55,000 crores for the programme, up from 48,000 crores in 2017-18.

According to Tuesday’s government statement, the Ministry of Rural Development has completed major reforms in the MGNREGS programme in the last four years to transform it into a resource for sustainable livelihoods for the poor.

In 2014-15, only 26.85% of payments were generated within 15 days of completion of the work, the statement said adding in 2018-19, the corresponding number was over 90%.

In the last dozen years, the rural employment programme has been a key source of livelihood for millions of rural households. It guarantees up to 100 days of unskilled work in a year to one member of every rural household and was credited with raising rural household incomes. In 2017-18, the scheme provided 45 days of work on an average to a rural household, compared to 49 days in 2015-16, when a widespread drought hit several states.

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