New Delhi: Government on Friday toughened its stand about bringing changes into UPA's flagship MNREGA scheme even as Congress hit out at the NDA regime for "weakening" the programme just for political reasons.
Digging out a study by the Mumbai-based Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, the Centre said that its report on the rural job scheme reveals how it was used by Congress as "a partisan tool to garner votes" in Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh.
The study, 'Local Funds and Political Competition: Evidence from the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in India', by Bhanu Gupta and Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay, shows that "larger funds (were) allocated to blocks where Congress had lower initial vote share" in Rajasthan, government sources said.
"These results are stronger when we consider blocks where Congress won or lost by a close margin in a previous election. The study gives evidence of a mechanism which highlights the role of a political representative in the funds sanctioning process," government sources said quoting the study.
Amidst allegations that the government was diluting the MNREGA, Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari today ordered immediate e-transfers to reduce delays in the payment of wages under the scheme.
Meanwhile, Congress targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue and accused NDA government of deliberately "maligning" and "weakening" the scheme simply because it was launched by UPA.
"It is a very unfortunate and sad to bring politics into everything and to malign and weaken it only because it was brought in by UPA. MNREGA has been a very effective scheme," said Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi.
"It's coverage is being narrowed. Labour-material ratio, which was the soul of the scheme has been cut down from 60:40 to 51: 49 even though experts had earlier demanded that it be raised to 70:30," he said.
Congress's attack came a day after the NDA government declared that it was determined to go ahead with its plan to undertake a "thorough review" of MNREGA.
The Rural Development Ministry had also suggested that MNREGA could be linked with the skill development programme, a pet project of Modi.