MNREGA scheme provides social security by guaranteeing a minimum of 100 days of paid work to rural people
The Gujarat government on Wednesday admitted in the Assembly that in comparison to 2018, over 32 lakh less person-days of work was generated in 2019 in the state under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) scheme of the Centre.
As per the data shared by the BJP government during the Question Hour, as against 4.05 crore person-hour of work generated in 2018, a total of 3.72 crore person-hour of work was generated in 2019, a gap of around 32 lakh person-hours.
During a heated debate over MNREGA, a scheme which provides social security by guaranteeing a minimum of 100 days of paid work to rural people, Congress MLAs alleged wages were not paid on time to beneficiaries because the BJP-led government at the Centre was delaying release of grant.
While Agriculture Minister R C Faldu claimed all pending wages have been cleared across the state, Virji Thummar (Congress) claimed though the dues were cleared now, the beneficiaries were not paid for almost three months.
Minister of State for Rural Development Bachubhai Khabad admitted that central grant under the scheme came late this time.
"Wages were paid late because the central grant is coming late. Even you are accepting this. I am surprised because Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister today.
"The BJP government (in Gujarat) should not face any difficulty now (since the saffron party is also in power at the Centre)," said Pravin Musadiya (Congress).
Senior Congress legislator Vikram Madam claimed the then BJP government in Gujarat had opposed the scheme when it was launched during the UPA rule in 2005.
"When MNREGA was launched, I was a Member of Parliament. I remember that the scheme faced opposition in Gujarat.
"As far as I know, wages were not paid for almost three months. Is this how the government works?" asked Mr Madam.
Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel refuted Madam's claim, saying it was PM Modi who had expanded the scope of the scheme.
Mr Patel said instead of waiting for the central grant, the Gujarat government pays wages from its side and then settles the account after funds arrive from Delhi.
Deputy Leader of Opposition Shailesh Parmar (Congress) reminded Patel that it was PM Modi who had once said the scheme is a "living monument" of the Congress'' "failure".
"It is an irony that despite saying that, he had increased the grant for MNREGA. Though you are in power at the Centre since six years, the people in Gujarat are starving," said Mr Parmar.
Mr Patel hit back, saying the scheme was mired in corruption when the Congress was in power at the Centre.
"Now, wages are deposited directly into the bank accounts (of beneficiaries). Middlemen of the Congress are left with no work now.
"Our PM has said he will strengthen this scheme, which was nothing but a skeleton during the Congress rule," said the Deputy Chief Minister.