NEW DELHI: Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi on Thursday slammed the Centre over the “constant cuts” in budgetary allocation to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and demanded to increase the budget for the scheme.
Speaking in the Lok Sabha, Gandhi said the scheme helped crores of poor families during the COVID-induced lockdown.
“This is weakening the legal guarantee of timely payment and jobs. This year’s MGNREGA budget is 35 per cent less than that of 2020 even when unemployment is rising continuously. Due to cuts in the budget, payment of workers gets delayed. The Supreme Court has called this forced labour,” she told the lower House of the Parliament.
She urged the Centre to allocate a “proper budget” for MGNREGA, pay wages to labourers within 15 days of work and determine Annual Action Plan of states without delay.
The Congress leader also pointed out that all states have recently been told that their annual labour budgets will not be approved unless they fulfill the conditions related to the appointment of ombudsmen and social audit.
“Social audit must be made effective, but the workers cannot be penalised by stopping the allocation of funds for the scheme, based on the shortcomings in its implementation. It is unfair and inhumane. Instead of obstructing it, the government should find a solution,” she said.
Responding to Gandhi’s charge, Union Minister Anurag Thakur said that the budget of Rs 30,000 crore allocated to MGNREGA was not utilised during the UPA government’s tenure till 2014.
“But during crisis, the Modi government made a provision of over Rs 1 lakh crore. Today, MGNREGA workers get money into their accounts with the click of a button. PM Modi opened Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana accounts and the MGNREGA workers’ money is transferred into those accounts,” he added.
Thakur’s response was met with objection from Congress MPs who also protested in the House.
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