The Centre in its Union Budget on Monday allocated Rs 73,000 crore to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act for the next financial year of 2021-’22, reported PTI.

This was substantially lower than the actual expenditure of Rs 1.11 lakh crore in the current fiscal, which included an additional outlay of Rs 40,000 crore given by the government.

As per a detailed financial statement, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget allocation of Rs 73,000 crore for MGNREGA is 34.52% less than the revised estimate of Rs 1.11 lakh crore for 2020-’21. The Budgetary Estimate for the scheme in 2020-’21 was Rs 61,500 crore.

Last year, the Centre had initially allocated Rs 61,500 crore for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in the Union Budget with a target to generate 289 crore person days’ work. In May, Sitharaman had raised the allocation by another Rs 40,000 crore to help generate a total of 300 crore person days’ work to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus-induced lockdown on the rural economy. The allocation was made in the fifth and final tranche of the government’s Rs 20-lakh-crore economic package.

Experts said that the massive underestimation in this year’s Budget allocation will severely impact employment generation, especially in context of the pandemic. With lockdowns wiping off jobs, there has been a sharp rise in the number of people dependent on the rural employment scheme for their sustenance.

“The amount allocated for next year is Rs 38,500 crore less than the Revised Estimate for 2020-21,” Debamalya Nandy, member of NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, told Down To Earth. “While the total number of person days generated so far has touched 3.4 billion, the government has provisioned for only about 2.7-2.8 billion person days for next year. This will limit the scope of employment and will result in indefinite delays in wage payments in the coming year.”

Notably, for all other major flagship welfare schemes under the Rural Development Ministry, the allocation for the 2021-’22 fiscal was increased from the revised estimate for the current 2020-’21 financial year.

The allocation for the rural roads scheme – Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana – increased to Rs 15,000 crore from Rs 13,700 crore, whereas the funds allocated to the National Rural Livelihood Mission jumped by more than 48% to Rs 13,677 crore from Rs 9,210 crore in the period under review, according to PTI.

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