Nirmala Sitharaman takes on opposition over budget criticism; check what she says on MNREGA, PMAY fund cut

Amid criticism from the opposition for the cut in funds for flagship welfare schemes for the rural sector, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Friday rejected the claims and said the budget has actually increased allocations to MGNREGA and PMAY (rural) for FY20.

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Amid criticism from the opposition for the cut in funds for flagship welfare schemes for the rural sector, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Friday rejected the claims and said the budget has actually increased allocations to MGNREGA and PMAY (rural) for FY20. The budget reflects the government’s firm commitment to boost investment in agriculture and social sector, particularly healthcare, finance minister said while replying after a general discussion on the Union Budget 2019-20 in the Rajya Sabha.

In 2018-19, the Budget Estimates (BE) for MNREGA was kept at Rs 55,000 crore, she said. However, depending on demand for work as MNREGA is a demand driven scheme, the allocation were enhanced to Revised Estimates (RE) level of Rs 61,084 crore. “Additionality will be examined in the RE stage in the current year’s budget,” she said. So, the allocation is far more than what was in the BE stage in FY19, she noted. In case of additional demands, more funds would be provided for by the government, she noted.

Similarly, for PMAY (rural), in RE 2018-19, the allocation was Rs 19,900 crore, she said. Extra-budgetary support of nearly Rs 10,000 crore was also provided for then and the total support was to the tune of nearly Rs 31,000 crore, she added. The provision for PMAY (rural) for 2019-20 fiscal stood at Rs 19,000 crore. Even as the beneficiaries of the scheme are being fully covered, the fund could be augmented, if required, she added.

Of the 272 recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, the government has already implemented many of them and it’s the same government that took the historic decision of providing a minimum of 50 per cent as the margin of profit on the cost of production in 2018, she said.

The budget boosts investments without compromising on fiscal consolidation roadmap, she added. The fiscal deficit target of 3.3 per cent is possible and that too without any cut in allocations, she said. On inflation, she said that a complete control over inflation is an achievement of the government. “The government between 2014-19 and even today has completely kept control on inflation. Inflation has not been allowed to raise its dirty head to cause inconvenience to consumers,” she added.

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