Home / Politics / Policy /  Budget 2017: Jaitley allocates Rs48,000 crore for MGNREGS, the highest ever

New Delhi: Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday announced substantial increases in allocations for key programmes of the rural development ministry, seeking to address complaints of persistent rural distress and meet targets set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the uplift of the poor.

With some states like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra declaring drought despite 2016 recording a normal monsoon, the flagship rural jobs programme has emerged as the primary social safety net programme to alleviate rural distress in the budget.

Jaitley on Wednesday announced Rs48,000 crore for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in the annual budget for 2017-18. This is the highest allocation for the programme since its inception in 2006.

In 2016-17, Jaitley had allocated Rs38,500 crore with a provision for Rs5,000 crore more.

But figures on the rural development ministry website show that expenses of about 53,000 crore have been incurred on the MGNREGS in the year 2016-17, which includes some 3,000 crore for 2015-16 -- designated a drought year.

MGNREGS was created as a safety net for the rural sector. It guarantees 100 days of employment a year, especially in between the two main crop seasons, to one member of every rural household.

Another programme of the rural development ministry that has received a big boost is the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojna, or housing for rural poor, which has been allocated Rs23,000 crore in 2017-18, up from Rs15,000 crore in 2016-17.

According to Jaitley, 10 million houses for the rural poor will be constructed in 2017-18 for the homeless and those wishing to improve their accommodation.

A third programme of the rural development ministry—the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana or PMGSY— aimed at connecting all rural habitations in the country by all-weather roads, has been given Rs19,000 in the 2017-18 budget, the same as in the previous year.

The government has speeded up the pace of construction of rural roads from 73 kilometres a day in 2011-14 to 133 kilometres a day in 2016-17, Jaitley said. Back-of-the-envelope calculations show that Jaitley has allocated some Rs90,000 crore for the three main programmes of the rural development ministry in his 2017-18 budget—an increase of Rs17,500 crore over the allocations in the 2016-17 budget. However, activists seemed unhappy with the numbers announced by Jaitely.

48,000 crore was the expenditure incurred by MGNREGS last year. So the announcement of 48,000 crore just matches the expenditure of the past year. Making provisions for inflation, the allocation should have been about 0,000 crore," said Nikhil Dey of the Rajasthan-based non-profit group Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan.

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