Additional allocations will be sanctioned for the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the finance ministry has assured there will be no shortage, Union Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh has said, dismissing criticisms of the flagship programme not being given sufficient funds.
In an interview with PTI, the minister also alleged large-scale corruption under the scheme in West Bengal. Asked if the Centre will undertake any probe, Mr Singh replied in the affirmative but did not elaborate on the nature of the probe.
“The MGNREGS is a demand-driven scheme, everyone knows that,” he said, adding: “The Union finance ministry has sanctioned additional funds for it.”
Sources in the finance ministry have said additional funds of Rs 28,000 crore have been sanctioned for the MGNREGS which would be cleared in the next Parliament session. The allocation for the MGNREGS in the 2023-23 Budget was Rs 60,000 crore.
Accusing the opposition of creating confusion over the flagship rural employment scheme, Mr Singh said, “Mr Kharge (Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge) and other opposition leaders create confusion… The truth is that 2,644 crore person days of work have been generated during the last nine years and more than Rs 6.63 lakh crore released as central share, which is three times the allocations made during the UPA regime.”
He further said that under the MGNREGS, 48 per cent were women workers during the UPA government. Now, that has gone up to 55 per cent, he added.
Asked about the recent large-scale deletions of names from the MGNREGS rolls, the minister said, “Some people may have died, so their job cards were deleted, but not everyone could have died….” The department has been directed to look into the reasons for the deletions, he said.
According to figures provided by the Rural Development Ministry in reply to a question in Parliament, more than 5.18 crore workers were deleted from the MGNREGS rolls in 2022-23. In 2021-22, more than 1.49 crore workers were struck off the MGNREGS rolls.
The states that saw a high number of deletion of workers include Andhra Pradesh (over 78 lakh), Bihar (over 76 lakh), Odisha (over 77 lakh), Uttar Pradesh (over 62 lakh) and West Bengal (over 83 lakh).
Asked about the pending payments for West Bengal, the minister alleged that there is large-scale corruption in the scheme in the state.
“A loot is going on…” Mr Singh alleged, adding, “In the name of MGNREGS work, they will write that a bund has been constructed. When it is inspected, they say it was washed away in floods…”
Commenting on a protest by TMC MPs in the rural development ministry after Minister of State Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti did not meet a delegation of around 40 party representatives on October 3, the minister claimed that the MoS waited till 8.30 pm and the TMC delegation was too big.
“They wanted to create a scene,” he alleged.
TMC leaders were forcefully evicted from Krishi Bhawan by security personnel and detained while they were protesting on the premises on October 3. The party’s leaders alleged they were manhandled by the security personnel.
On the pending payments of those who have already worked under the MGNREGS in West Bengal, the Union minister said there is a state government and they should pay. “We are investigating the matter,” he added.
According to a written reply by MoS Niranjan Jyoti in the Lok Sabha during the Monsoon Session, Rs 2,770 crore was pending under the wage component for West Bengal.
The ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal has accused the BJP-led NDA government of withholding Rs 15,000 crore in dues to the state under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the PM Awas Yojana.
Asked if he had any meeting with West Bengal Governor CV Ananda Bose or other representatives from the state, the minister said a dossier has been sent by the governor which is being examined by the ministry.
On the achievements of his ministry, Mr Singh said the empowerment of women through schemes is ushering in a change.
“Empowering women through government schemes is the biggest achievement of the Rural Development Ministry… PM Modi has promised two crore ‘Lakhpati Didis’. We will achieve the target before March 2024,” he said.
Under the scheme, skill development training will be provided to 2 crore women to encourage them to start micro-enterprises, he added.
Commenting on the Lok Sabha polls next year, the minister, who is an MP from Begusarai in Bihar, said the Opposition alliance INDIA was not a challenge to the BJP and also expressed confidence that his party would win the upcoming assembly polls in five states.
“INDIA alliance will make no difference, especially in Bihar. The people of Bihar love PM Modi. Who is the PM candidate of this alliance? Is it Rahul Gandhi, or Mamata Banerjee … Nitish Kumar or Uddhav Thackeray? Would they all be PM for a month, or for a year… This is an opportunistic alliance,” he said.
“We will win all five states. The Congress is busy with infighting in Madhya Pradesh. In Rajasthan, they have already said they are not sure of winning… In Chhattisgarh, the Bhupesh Baghel government has been exposed. I am confident the BJP will win all states,” Mr Singh said.
Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana will go to the polls next month.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)