Congress attacks Narendra Modi govt over NREGA

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New Delhi/bandlapalli | Published: February 3, 2016 3:00:41 AM

Rejecting Government's claim of having brought a "transformation" in NREGA, Congress today attacked it for praising UPA's flagship rural job scheme in a "characteristic U-turn"...

Rejecting Government’s claim of having brought a “transformation” in NREGA, Congress today attacked it for praising UPA’s flagship rural job scheme in a “characteristic U-turn” and alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was eroding the effectiveness of the welfare effort.

Leading the charge, Rahul Gandhi mocked Modi saying his government’s praise is a “shining example” of PM’s “political wisdom” while former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh alleged that there was an attempt to “kill the soul and spirit” of NREGA.

“After calling NREGA ‘living monument of INC failure’ Govt now hails it as cause of ‘nat pride & celebration’ !Shining eg of Modiji’s pol wisdom”, the Congress Vice President said in a tweet as NREGA completed 10 years today.

Gandhi’s reference was to Prime’s Minister snide remarks about the UPA flagship scheme during the Budget Session last year.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who along with Gandhi addressed a gathering Bandlapalli village in Andhra Pradesh today to mark the completion of ten years of MGNREGA, also trained his guns at the NDA government, alleging that Modi government wants to “kill the soul and spirit” of MGNREGA.

“Despite the enormous potential of MGNREGA as a social security programme, Prime Minister Modi does not like it. He has called MGNREGA as an epitome of Congress failure–a living proof of 60 years of Congress misrule.

“The Modi Government seeks to kill the soul and spirit of MGNREGA by withholding payments to states for MGNREGA works. In 2014-15 alone, Government of India did not make payment of Rs 6,000 crores to states for already executed MGNREGA works.

“It is up to the people to mobilise their sources in support of the effectiveness of MGNREGA to convince the Modi Government to desist from the negative path of eroding the effectiveness of MGNREGA as an instrument of people centered development,” Singh said.

AICC Communication Department Chief Randeep Surjewala accused the government of having dealt a “severe blow” to the scheme and listed a number of purported steps taken taken by Modi government to hammer home the charge that “Modi and his Government did everything possible to destroy MGNREGA”.

“After having dealt a severe blow to one of the landmark Rights Based Legislation, that provided right to livelihood and employment and changed the rural landscape of the country like never before, the Narendra Modi led BJP Government has in a characteristic U-turn suddenly discovered the virtues of MGNREGA.

“Modi has come around from a position of criticizing the Programme to celebrating it. Unfortunately, his actions of neglect speaker louder than his words,” Surjewala said hours after the goverment reiterated its commitment to the scheme, claiming it released more funds for it than UPA governments and carried out a “transformation” in to benefit people more.

Surjewala noted that while rural India was enthused by getting this legal right to work, BJP started a “negative campaign” against this scheme from the first day itself.

“Their criticism reached the limits when Prime Minister Narendra Modi viciously criticised the MGNREGA in Lok Sabha by saying that the ‘Digging holes is the result of 60 years of your misdeeds and this scheme is a living monument of the failures of the previous government.’

“However, one year down the line, the same Prime Minister is lauding MGNREGA along with another flagship UPA programme – AADHAAR. And asking his MPs to work for its success. Before reaching this point of ‘U’ turn, Modi and his government did everything possible to destroy MGNREGA,” he said.

The Congress spokesperson listed out measures to back his claim and alleged that the number of families getting 100 days of compulsory employment under MGNREGA has been systematically brought down by about half.

“Whereas, 51,73,487 families of got 100 days of employment in 2012-13 and 46,59,347 families got employment in 2013-14. It has drastically come down to 24,93,840 families in 2014-15 and a dismal 20,45,161 families in 2015-16,” he said.

He also rued that despite severe rural distress, instead of a 100 days, “only an average 39.98 days of employment is been made available to workers under MGNREGA”.

“Even on such a reduced number of days the payments made to the workers is never on time and the gap between the workdays and wages is constantly increasing,” he claimed.

Countering the government’s claim that fund allocation per person-day as well as wage payment under the scheme increased after NDA came to power, Surjewala listed details of purported delay in wage payment and absence of funds with states.

“Whereas, the government spent Rs 39,778.27 crore and Rs 38,552.62 crore on the scheme in 2012-13 and 2013-14, respectively, the expenditure on it went down to Rs 36,033.81 crore and Rs 34,226.80 crore in 2014-15 and 2015-16 respectively.

“There is close to around 50 per cent delay in the total wages to be paid. Wages amounting to more than Rs 11,000 crore have not been paid in the current financial year. In the last financial year, average delay in wages was almost 60 per cent.

“Funds with states have dried up and 14 states, including Andhra Pradesh, are showing negative balance.

“There is decline in average days of employment per household in 2014-15 and 2015-16 to 40 days, a sharp decline from the previous years. Only 4 crore households were provided work in 2014-15 as compared to 4.8 crore households in 2013-14,” he said.

Surjewala also rued that the average wage rate per day increased only by Rs 8 in this financial year. Alleging that there has been a decline in the households completing 100 days in last two years, he said, “Only 25 lakh have completed 100 days in 2014-15 as against 47 lakh in 2013-14.”

Reeling out figures he claimed that these contrasted with the “rapid strides” made under MGNREGA in bringing about unprecedented socio-economic change in rural India during the previous regime.

Surjewala said it was “shocking” that in a rural economy marred by drought while 1,95,13,989 families asked for jobs under MGNREGA in January 2016, jobs were made available to 86,75,141 people.

“Whereas, 7.97 crores people got jobs under MGNREGA in 2012-13, during the Modi government, it fell to 6.22 crore in 2014-15 and 5.79 crore in 2015-16,” he said.

“What is further unfortunate is that the social audit provisions in the Act to ensure transparency have been undertaken by this government only in 145 out of 662 districts even though financial year is coming to a close,” he said.

Earlier in Bandlapalli, Rahul said one out of five persons in the country have worked in MGNREGA and it was for the first time money came into the pockets of crores of people.

“Those who were not given any importance, could for the first time seek guaranteed work. They could go to officers and ask for work. I met MGNREGA workers, I met sarpanches. They told me that they have not seen a better programme than MGNREGA. They said that for the first time they have got money to educate children,” he said quoting from people’s experience of the scheme.

He also recalled that some time back some economists had come to him and and told him that a big reason for the the fast rise in growth rate in last few months was MGNREGA.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the implementation of MGNREGA provides an opportunity to strengthen democratic process and represents an enormous step towards empowerment of vulnerable sections of society through Panchayati Raj institutions.

“They have to turn to actively participate in democratic institutions at the grass roots and acquire a greater role in decision making and control over resources. Such empowerment is the essence of rural development,” he said.

Highlighting that MGNREGA has a clear focus on the poorest of the poor, Singh said, “It seeks to reach out to those in need for livelihood security. It comes to the aid of those who may be under pressure to migrate in search of livelihood. It helps us empower the poor to fight poverty, disease and indebtedness.

“MGNREGA is a unique social security system. It confers upon groups the right to demand work when they need it. This is especially made for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, for poor women, who are the worst sufferers of social inequality.”

Holding that MGNREGA is the gift of UPA to our people to assist them to fight poverty, ignorance and disease, Singh said that UPA is not in power now and hence it is “up to the people to defend this revolutionary programme.”

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