No extra funds for MGNREGA, sanitation; allocations reduced for rural roads and housing programme
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley seems to have toed the line of his predecessor P Chidambaram while allocating budgets for rural development programmes.
Rural job guarantee programme under MGNREGA, which was the flagship programme of the UPA regime, has received Rs 33,000 crore. Chidambaram had allocated the same amount in the 2013-14 budget, though it was later pruned to Rs 31,000 crore in the revised estimate in November last year. The only change introduced to the programme was that Jaitley emphasised on creation of more durable assets under MGNREGA.
The government plans to change the basic feature of MGNREGA for this. Assets under MGNREGA will now be created by line departments, such as the forest department, water resources department and agriculture department, who would pool MGNREGA funds granted to gram panchayats.
Though Jaitley renamed Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBY) to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, budgetary allocation for the programme too remains unchanged. The sanitation programme has been allocated Rs 15,260 crore. This includes Rs 11,000 crore for rural drinking water and Rs 4,098 crore for toilet construction and Rs 162 crore for felicitating panchayats with “Nirmal Gram Puraskar” for maintaining hygiene in their villages.
This is meager to achieve total sanitation by 2019, which the prime objective of the NDA government. Consider this. To meet the target, the government must construct 12.5 million toilets by 2014-15. Constructing a toilet costs nearly Rs 10,000. Even if the total budget is utilised properly, only 4.1 million toilets can be constructed.
The government plans to rope in private companies under the public-private partnership model for toilet construction under their Corporate Social Responsibility.
Budget cuts for rural roads, housing
Jaitley’s budget has proposed cuts in the rural road connectivity programme, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). The previous government had allocated Rs 21,700 crore for PMGSY in budget 2013-14, which was pruned to Rs 12,700 crore in the revised estimation last November. Jaitly has proposed Rs 14,389 crore for PMGSY. It is worth noting that PMGSY was initiated during the first tenure of the NDA government in 2000.
Indira Awaas Yojana has also faced deep budget cuts. The programme was allocated around Rs 15,000 crore during the last budget. This time only Rs 8,000 crore has been set aside for the housing programme meant for the poor.
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