Union Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told the Lok Sabha on Wednesday that the Centre was not in favour of continuing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme for an indefinite period of time, PTI reported. Tomar said that while the scheme was meant for the poor, the government’s goal was to eradicate poverty.

Tomar was replying to a discussion on demand for grants for the ministries of agriculture and rural development for the 2019-’20 financial year. He tried to allay the concerns of MPs that budgetary allocation for MNREGA has been decreased, pointing out that the allocation has increased from Rs 55,000 crore in 2018-’19 to Rs 60,000 crore in 2019-’20.

“We have improved MNREGA scheme to make it more people friendly,” the minister claimed. “Now, under the scheme, 99% of labourers are directly getting wages in their bank accounts. There is no middleman and broker.”

“I am not in favour of continuing with MNREGA forever,” Tomar added. “Because it is for the poor and government wants to eradicate poverty from India and is working in this direction.”

Tomar also said that big corporations can learn from women self-help groups about keeping non-performing assets in check. “Entire House knows about NPAs of big people, whereas women self help groups have only 2.7% NPAs and are ensuring employment for poor women in rural areas,” he said.

The minister also said that under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, 1.25 lakh square kilometresof roads will be built at an estimated cost of Rs 80,000 crore. Tomar said the construction of these roads will be completed by 2024-’25.

Tomar claimed more than 1.50 lakh houses have been constructed for the poor or those living in “kuccha” houses. He added that another 1.95 lakh homes will be constructed by 2022, with toilets, electricity and cooking gas.