Mayawati and Congress spar over NREGS

March 14th, 2008 - 9:33 pm ICT by admin  

By Rakesh Mohan Chaturvedid
New Delhi, March 14 (IANS) Even as the union government has announced an increase in allocation for its flagship National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and is set to implement if in 596 districts, the Uttar Pradesh government continues to put a spanner in the works. NREGS, which is close to Congress MP Rahul Gandhi’s heart and has all the patronage from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, has run into rough weather at the implementation stage. Since it the state government that is responsible for it, some states have set-up roadblocks on some pretext or the other.

UP Chief Minister Mayawati wrote a letter to the Prime Minister suggesting that NREGS also include building of schools, hospitals and other infrastructure. “But this cannot be done as NREGS is a labour-intensive scheme. She wants to make it capital-intensive. That would defeat the whole purpose of the scheme which is to provide employment,” said Digvijay Singh, Congress general secretary in-charge of UP.

Funds have been another major cause of tussle between UP government and the union.The rural development ministry, UP, sent a demand to the union on February 4 for Rs 11 billion to implement the scheme in 11 districts of the state. The union government is still mulling over the huge demand.

The union government had issued Rs 121 crore in February to UP under the scheme. The UP government maintains that it has spent Rs 147 Crore till now. “The total expenditure on NREGS since April 2007 to February 2008 is Rs 1,514 Crore,” said a source of the rural development ministry, UP.

Interestingly, while the chief minister has demanded more funds for the scheme her revenue secretary Pankaj Aggarwal had a different stand on the issue. Aggarwal wrote to the UP governor a month back-in reply to a query on the status of funds- that there was no dearth of funds meant for NREGS.

The union government has increased the over-all NREGS allocation from Rs 12,000 Crore in 2007-08 to Rs 16,000 Crore in the 2008-09 budget.

Miffed at the UP government attitude, Congress has launched a ‘hisaab maango’ (ask for accounts) protest against the UP government alleging pilferage of funds. “We want them to clarify where the money meant for the scheme has been spent,” UP Congress Committee head Rita Bahuguna Joshi said.

BSP has countered this with ‘money mango” (ask for money). While this sparring goes on, the scheme is likely to suffer a setback in a state that, ironically, is represented by Rahul Gandhi parliament.

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