Sonia Gandhi, Anurag Thakur Lock Horns in LS Over Rural Employment Scheme
Gandhi asserted that the MGNREGS budget for the current year was 35% less than 2020, even amid rising unemployment.
Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editors: Prajjwal Kumar, Purnendu Pritam
Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday, 31 March, lashed out at the Centre over the decreased budget allocation for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), prompting a response from Union Minister Anuraj Thakur in the Lok Sabha.
Gandhi raised the issue in the Lok Sabha during the second leg of the Budget session, asserting that the MGNREGS budget for the current year was 35 per cent less than that of 2020, even as unemployment continued to rise.
"I urge Centre that proper allocation of the budget be done for MGNREGA, payment of wages be ensured for labourers within 15 days of work, and in case of delay in payment, compensation should be ensured legally and an annual action plan of states be determined without any delay," the Congress leader stated in Parliament.
Resuming her attack on the Centre, she added that while the scheme was "mocked by several people a few years ago," it had aided crores of affected poor families during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping the government in the process.
Noting that the Supreme Court had referred to this as 'forced labour', the interim president underlined that the diminished allocation was impeding the labourers' right to timely payment and jobs.
"States were told that their yearly labour budget won't be approved unless they meet conditions related to social audit and appointment of Lokpal. A social audit should be made effective but labourers can't be punished by stopping the money for this, based on shortcomings," Gandhi added.
Anurag Thakur Hits Back, Ruckus Ensues
Responding to Gandhi's assertions, Union Minister Anurag Thakur cast aspersions on the erstwhile UPA government, saying that even the "allocated budget wasn't utilised" during its tenure.
"Until 2013-14, during UPA government, even the allocated Budget wasn't utilised. Even the Rs 30,000 cr wasn't utilised. But during a crisis, Modi government made provision of over Rs 1 Lakh Crores Budget," Thakur snapped back.
He claimed that the BJP government had begun 'geotagging' and worked on the scheme, saying that "today, MGNREGA workers get money into their accounts with the click of a button."
"Prime Minister Modi opened Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana accounts and the MGNREGA workers' money is transferred into those accounts," he added.
Raising objections to Thakur's statements, several Congress MPs later expressed their protest in the Lower House.
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