New Delhi: Allocation for UPA's ambitious MGNREGA scheme may have come down in the Union Budget but there would be no lack of funds for the rural job programme, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said on Saturday.
The allocation for the scheme entitling employment to poor rural households has been reduced from Rs 40,000 crore in 2011-2012 to Rs 33000 crore in the Budget presented by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for 2012-2013.
However, Ramesh maintained there was no dearth of funds with an amount of Rs 42000 crore which includes an opening balance of Rs 6000 crore lying with the states and the states' contribution of Rs 3000 crore available for the programme.
"Rs 6000 is the opening balance. Pranab Mukherjee has allocated Rs 33000 crore. Roughly 10 per cent--Rs 3000 crore-- is the state government contribution. So in 2012-2013, about Rs 42000 crore we can spend, which is more than adequate considering what is the performance in the state government," he said.
Ramesh owed the responsibility for the reduced budget allocation for the MNREGA.
"Now, people are criticising the Finance Minister. In fact, I was the one who asked for a reduced MNREGA budget. I wrote a letter to the Finance Minister requesting to reduce the MGNREGA budget and give that money to me for water supply and sanitation," Ramesh said.
Stating that MNREGA is a demand driven programme, he said, "Whatever demand arrives, we are legally obliged to fulfil." The Minister also rejected allegations that the reduction in the allocation has downsized the importance of the flagship programme.