Union Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh on Friday said that allocation to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, or MGNREGS, would be increased if demand arises, the Economic Times reported.

“MGNREGS is a demand-driven scheme and if demand goes up, we will increase the allocation,” Singh said. “This is a budget estimate and if you see revised estimates of past years, we have always increased the allocation.”

Allocation to MGNREGS in the budget announced on Wednesday has been reduced to Rs 60,000 crore, the lowest in the last four budgets of the government.

The scheme was introduced in 2005 by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance and is aimed at enhancing the livelihood security of households in rural areas. The scheme guarantees 100 days of unskilled work annually for every rural household that wants it, covering all districts in the country.

The reduction was criticised by activists and Opposition, including the Congress, which accused the Bhartiya Janata Party of being “anti-poor” and “anti-labour”.

On Friday, Singh, however, claimed that the Opposition was merely “creating drama” by raising the issue.

Separately, the Ministry of Rural Development, in a statement, said that the budgetary cut will not affect the programme’s objective of providing wage employment on demand.

“In 2019-20 Budget Estimate was Rs.60,000 crore which got revised to Rs.71,001 crore, for the financial year 2020-21 Budget Estimate was 61,500 crore which was increased to Rs.1,11,500 crore and for the financial year 2021-22 the Budget Estimate of Rs.73,000 crore was revised to Rs.98,000 crore,” the ministry said. “Therefore, it can be seen that the actual releases to the states have been much higher than that provided for at the Budget Estimate level.”