Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday allocated Rs 55,000 crore for Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) for the financial year 2018-19, signalling the government’s continued intent to address concerns of rural distress in a politically significant year.
In Budget 2017-18, the finance ministry had initially allocated Rs 48,000 crore for the world’s largest job guarantee scheme. The rural development ministry has twice sought additional funds from the finance ministry.
The scheme, executed under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, provides minimum 100 days of employment out of 365 days in a year to every rural household willing to do unskilled manual work.
In the last three financial years, the government has continued to increase its allocation towards the rural job scheme. In Budget 2016-17, Rs 38, 500 crore was allocated to the scheme, which was later revised and ramped up by 23 percent to Rs 47,499 crore, while Rs 41,699 crore was spent during financial year 2015-16.
The Budget 2018—the NDA government's last full budget in the current term—also saw major thrust on areas such as infrastructure and social sector.
The allocation for NREGA, the 11-year old job scheme, comes in the wake of reports of rural distress in many states.
While the 11-year old job scheme has generated more rural employment than any other government scheme or private sector initiative, it has also shared its share of criticism of fuelling inflation, delaying payment to workers, with drought-hit areas in the country not getting 100 days of work.