In a push to rural sector, the Narendra Modi government, often accused by the Opposition of pursuing "pro-corporate and pro-rich" policies, on Monday announced an enhanced budget allocation of over Rs 8200 crore for rural development including MGNREGA for which funds have been increased by about Rs 3,800 crore.
"For rural development as a whole, I have allocated Rs 87,765 crore in the Budget for 2016-17...Rs 38,500 crore have been allocated for MGNREGA in 2016-17. If the total amount is spent, it will be highest budget spend on MGNREGA," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said presenting the Union Budget in Lok Sabha. In the last Budget, a total of Rs 79,526 crore were allocated for rural development activities including MGNREGA, for which the allocation then was Rs 34,699 crore.
"A sum of Rs 2.87 lakh crore will be given as grant-in-aid to gram panchayats and municipalities as per recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission. This is a quantum jump of 228 per cent compared to the previous five-year period," Jaitley said speaking about devolution of funds to states.
"The funds now allocated, translate to an average assistance of over Rs 80 lakh per gram panchayat and over Rs 21 crore per urban local body. These enhanced allocations are capable of transforming villages and small towns. Ministry of Panchayati Raj will work with the states and evolve guidelines to actualise this," Jaitley said.
Underlining that there was an urgent need to focus on areas of drought and rural distress, he said, every block in these distress areas will be taken up as an "intensive Block" under the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Mission.
Announcing allocation of a sum of Rs 38,500 crore for MGNREGA in 2016-17, he said, "formation of Self Help Groups (SHGs) will be speeded up to promote multiple livelihoods.
Cluster Facilitation Teams (CFT) will be set up under MGNREGA to ensure water onservation and natural resource management.
These districts would also be taken up on priority under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchaii Yojna."
On the much talked about rural-urban mission, Jaitley announced that 300 rurban clusters will be developed under the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Rurban Mission launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently.
"These clusters will incubate growth centres in rural areas by providing infrastructure amenities and market access to the farmers. They will also expand employment opportunities for the youth," Jaitley said.
Laying emphasis on the government's plan to provide electricity to all villages, he noted that the government was committed to achieve 100 per cent village electrification by May 1, 2018.