Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said the Budget estimate (BE) of Rs 60,000 crore for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) was not a cap and the Central government will make available more funds for the flagship scheme to keep pace with demand next financial year.
Rampant misappropriation of funds allocated under the NREGS was one of the reasons for the Centre to make a five-year low provision in FY24BE, sources had told FE earlier.
The NREGS is the government’s largest social sector scheme, administered by the rural development ministry. For FY23, the government has enhanced the outlay for the rural job guarantee programme from Rs 73,000 crore in the Budget estimate (BE) to Rs 89,400 crore in the revised estimate (RE).
“So, to look at the Budget time figure and say that you brought it down, it’s not right. We keep giving more for it as the demand develops and we also ensure that it gets spent,” Sitharaman said at a post-budget event at Bhubaneswar. “So, these are very clear strategies through which we go.”
As this is demand driven scheme, the Narendra Modi
Under the programme, the Centre has spent Rs 98,468 crore in FY22 and a record Rs 1.1 trillion during the Covid pandemic FY21 to give succour to migrant labourers.
Since the scheme has become a self-fulfilling prophecy (demand grows if the budget is higher), the government has decided to start with a lower outlay for the next financial year, sources said.
Speaking at the event, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (Dipam) Tuhin Kanta Pandey said the disinvestment target of Rs 51,000 crore for FY24 was “realistic”. “We follow a calibrated disinvestment strategy, which is practicable, pragmatic and it does not distort the market,” Pandey said.