For a scheme meant to be used by the poorest of the poor in their leanest times, it is unconscionable that the government owes Rs.3,200 crore to beneficiaries of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Yet that is exactly where matters have reached with the ten-year-old scheme, a fact the Supreme Court took notice of earlier this week. The scheme was launched by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in its first term and delays in wage payments preceded the change in government, but matters have come to a head over the last year, resulting in a decline in the number of people participating. The number of households that got the legally guaranteed 100 days of work fell from 51.73 lakh in 2012-13 to 46.73 lakh in 2013-14 (under the UPA), and then dipped sharply to 23.24 lakh in 2014-15 (under the NDA). Funds sanctioned for the scheme show a similar steep decline under the NDA government, from…continue reading


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