The Congress on Monday asked the Centre to scale up MNREGA and expand the number of days of work under the scheme to 200 from the current guaranteed 100 days of employment for rural workers for the next six months to a year to offset the devastating economic effect of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Please consider expanding employment under MNREGA to 200 days. The Bihar government has also demanded such a thing. Those employed may be paid in advance for 10 days which can then be adjusted with the payment for the rest of the days,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said at a video press conference.
“We demand MNREGA in its content, reach, boundaries be scaled up as it has proved to be the closest glove that fits the hand of Covid distress. PM should forget his words have come back to haunt him, that Covid marks clear negation of whatever the PM and the BJP said about MNREGA,”
He also suggested that employment be provided to people within four to five kilometers of their houses.
Singhvi also asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to take the remarks in an adversarial spirit
“Please consider how much good you can do to the nation through this scheme. Don’t take our remarks in an adversarial spirit. In May 2020, 2.19 crore households benefited from this scheme, the highest for May in eight years,” he said.
The Congress spokesperson also said that there is a need to ensure that states that are grossly lagging need to push MNREGA and cited examples of Haryana and Gujarat.
He warned that the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic will last many months and alleged that numbers of employment under MNREGA are fudged.
“Innovation of MGNREGA was that the statutory right to get work on demand was created i.e. work for up to 100 days couldn’t be denied upon demand. Sadly people are fudging figures. 50-75 days is being passed off as 100. This is deplorable, the government should punish all culprits,” he said.
Singhvi claimed that it was the Congress’ pressure under which the government increased the allocation for MNREGA but pointed out that Rs 16,000 crore out of an allocation of Rs one lakh was arrears for unpaid wages and that the actual increase in allocation was Rs 24,000 crore.
“It is because of the Congress’ sustained pressure that compelled this Government to increase the allocation by Rs 40,000 crores but Rs 16,000 crore out of Rs 1 lakh total allocation is arrears for unpaid dues,” he said.
He also suggested freeing MNREGA from budgetary limits and ensure that gram panchayats are given primacy in implementing the employment scheme at the ground level
“At least, for the duration and aftermath of the Covid distress, it is imperative to free MGNREGA from the fetters of budgetary limits. It is important that gram panchayats are given privacy in selecting, implementing, segregating at the ground level,” Singhvi said.