Allocation for rural job scheme far short of actual requirement, SC told

New Delhi, April 19 (IANS) NGO Swaraj Abhiyan on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the government’s allocation of Rs.38,500 crore to the rural job guarantee scheme for 2016-2017 was far short of the actual requirement as it sought to negate the government claim that there was no shortage of funds for it.

Taking the bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice N.V. Ramana through the government’s own statistics, the NGO said that for 217 crores person days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the central government has allocated Rs.38,500 crore whereas it should have been Rs.71,820 crore.

This is besides the Rs. 12,483 crores of unpaid dues of the previous year (2015-2016).

Telling the court the government has reduced, by a third, the labour demand of 314 crore person days projected by the state governments, counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Swaraj Abhiyan, said that of Rs.38,500 crore allocated under MGNREGA for 2016-17, Rs.19,000 crore has been released of which Rs.12,483 crore would be required to service the last fiscal’s unpaid dues.

The court is hearing a public interest litigation by the NGO seeking relief for people living in drought-affected states.

Thus, Bhushan told the court, the actual allocation, as of now, was Rs.7,000 crore.

For 217 crore person days as fixed by the Centre coupled with requirement of additional 50 days work per household in the drought-hit states, Bhushan said that actual amount that would be required to be paid would be Rs.71,820 crore.

Besides the allocation of Rs.38,000 crore which was well short of actual requirement, Bhushan said that minimum wages being paid under the MGNREGA was not at par with the prevailing rate of minimum wages in the states.

Similarly, he told the court that compensation being paid to the farmers for crop loss on account of drought too was far short of the actual cost that a farmer bears, and sought the compensation cover the cost of cultivation of different crops.

Claiming that what was being paid for crop loss was without taking into consideration the cost of seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, water and labour, Bhushan said that what was coming to farmer’s family was not even the minimum wages paid to worker.

Pointing out that both farmers and farming sector were in deep distress, he said that the last 15 to 20 years have witnessed more than three lakh suicides by farmers.

Meanwhile, the government told the court that farmers in drought-hit areas were entitled to restructuring or rescheduling of their loans from the bank, and that about 33 crore people were affected by the drought in 12 states in the country.

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