Union Budget: MGNREGS finally gets tweaked

Updated: Jul 10, 2014, 19:27 PM IST

Rashi Aditi Ghosh/ZRG

In India, there are more mobile phones than toilets. India also has the dubious distinction of having the world’s largest number of people (67 per cent) defecating in the open, which is a huge concern. In terms of total sanitation, the programme is tardy. Jairam Ramesh, the former Rural Development Minister even admitted of having total ‘hera-pheri’ in the total sanitation programme.

But the NDA government wants to change the culture. In first General Budget of the Modi government, it has set an ambitious target of overhauling the social welfare schemes.

Presenting the budget, Arun Jaitley has proposed to provide total sanitation to every household. “The Government intends to cover every household by total sanitation by the year 2019, the 150th year of the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi through Swatchh Bharat Abhiyan,” said Jaitley.

Small is beautiful for the NDA government. Like the pruning of ministries on the theme of providing “Minimum Government Maximum Governance”, Jaitley has also restructured older welfare schemes. The highlights of budget plan 2014-2015 states that, “126 Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) have been restructured in 66 schemes which include 17 flagship programmes.”

The other national shame, according to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was the country’s malnutrition situation. However, under Singh’s tenure, the Prime Minister Council on Nutrition met just once. Now, the Modi government wants to change the scenario. To halt the deteriorating malnutrition situation in India, Jaitley announced a national programme in Mission Mode. “A comprehensive strategy including detailed methodology, costing, time lines and monitorable targets for the mission will be put in place within six months,” the FM said.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Scheme (MGNREGS), a dream scheme of Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been receiving flak for quite some time now. But the NDA wants to make the scheme more meaningful. “The wage employment would be provided under MGNREGS through works that are more productive, asset creating and substantially linked to agriculture and allied activities,” Jaitley said.

As a matter of fact, Jaitley’s budget was a complete amalgamation of welfare schemes touching many important issues. A much higher allocation of Rs 3, 38,408 crore in State Plan 2014-15 against Budget Estimates (BE) 2013-14 of Rs 1, 36,254 crore reflects this change.

Even for the minority, the government has something to offer. Through programme “Upgradation of Traditional Skills in Arts, Resources and Goods, the government wants to empower and preserve the traditional arts and crafts. “An additional amount of Rs 100 crore for modernisation of madarsas has also been provided to the Department of School Education,” the minister said.

Mentioning women safety as a major concern, Jaitley announced a whole lot of initiatives. First, he allocated an outlay of Rs 50 crore to Ministry of Road Transport & Highways on pilot testing a scheme on “Safety for Women on Public Road Transport”. Secondly, a sum of Rs 150 crore will also be spent by Ministry of Home Affairs on a scheme to increase the safety of women in large cities.

He also proposed to set up “Crisis Management Centres” in all the districts of NCT of Delhi this year in all government and private hospitals and the funding of the centres would be provided from the Nirbhaya Fund.

The major attraction of 2014-15 was announcement of a series of 100 crore schemes that included schemes like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Parhao Yojna’ for women’s welfare, Shyama Prasad Mukherji ‘RURBAN’ mission for rural areas, National Mission for beautifying pilgrimage centres and also helping scheduled caste/scheduled tribes through a scheme by IFCI and Van Bandhu Kalyan Yojana.

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