New Delhi: Targeting the government over its reported move to bring changes in MNREGA, Opposition in Rajya Sabha on Thursday said that it seems to be trying to wind up the ambitious rural job guarantee scheme launched by the UPA.
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) enacted in 2005 aims to provide 100 days of work to unskilled poor people living in rural areas.
Moving a Calling Attention Motion, D Raja (CPI) said, "MNREGA enacted by UPA government was part of the common minimum programme, which was supported by Left parties. Now, what the BJP-led government is doing is that they are weakening and diluting the act. They are giving indication to say 'good-bye' to the scheme. This is a serious situation."
The government has reduced the budget allocation under MNREGA for this fiscal, restricted the coverage area to few districts and changed the labour and material ration under the scheme -- thereby diluting the objective of the law, he added.
CPI and other members urged the government not to undermine the law by bringing these changes and encourage "benami contractors and corruption" under the scheme.
Replying to the motion, Rural Development Minister Birender Singh, however, said the MNREGA has achieved significant results in the last eight years and the continuous endeavour of the government is to "further streamline and improve" implementation of the scheme.
"The current focus of the government is to ensure both wage employment generation and creation of quality assets," he said, adding several steps have been taken to ensure creation of productive and sustainable assets.
The government has amended the law to allow 60 per cent of the works to be taken in a district for creating productive assets be directly linked to agriculture and allied activities through development of land, water and trees, he said.
To promote quality asset creation, convergence of MNREGA with the schemes of line departments is being encouraged. The Centre has also allowed payment of remuneration from the skilled wage component to technical assistants employed on the ground to supervise the work of quality assets, he said.
The Minister said the government is also laying emphasis on ensuring "transparency and accountability" in the implementation of the scheme.