By Our Special Correspondent
New Delhi, February 4: The Opposition is aiming at the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre with claims that there is rural distress in the country. The Opposition is seeking to rally support in the rural parts of the country against the Modi government by raising the issue of alleged weakening of the rural employment flagship scheme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGREGS).
The chief of the Congress communication department Jairam Ramesh has said “The Prime Minister, in his arrogance, will try anything to sabotage Congress’ plans, even if it means hurting the poor. This is why he is trying to end MNREGA.”
Ramesh further alleged that “the budget for MNREGA has been cut repeatedly over the last few years. In 2023-24 it was 0.25% of GDP, the lowest in its history. Using the pretext of transparency, the BJP has turned the Aadhaar technology introduced during the Congress government into a weapon against the poor.”
Ramesh made the allegations against the Modi government while being in Jharkhand in the Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra of party’s former president Rahul Gandhi. Ramesh also visited areas infested by the Naxals. It may be recalled that Ramesh wad Union Minister for Rural Development in the Manmohan Singh-led government of the UPA.
Ramesh further charged that “It has made Aadhaar-based payment system (ABPS) mandatory for every MNREGA worker from January 2024. However, 35% of registered workers are not able to receive payment under it. — 7 crore job cards have been deleted in the last few years. — National Mobile Monitoring System (NMMS) has been made mandatory, but data connections are not available in many parts of India, and many people do not have smartphones. “
It may also be recalled that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati had also accused the Modi government of not addressing the issue of unemployment in the country. Mayawati had said: “The budget presented today in the Parliament by the Central Government, before the Lok Sabha elections, is more of an election gimmick than the ground reality. Thus, it is very sad and worrying to deny the life of the people of the country suffering from immense poverty, unemployment and rising inflation etc. “
The BSP supremo had further charged that “along with this, if there was ground reality in the government’s claims and promises regarding the country’s economy and development, then more than 80 crore people here would not have been forced to live a life in need of free ration. “
The economists such as Ashok Gulati have been claiming in their articles that the income in the rural areas has seen negative growth in the last five years. They are claiming that the people in the rural areas are badly affected by the lack of remunerative employment.
However, the NITI Aayog had recently said that almost 25 crore people had come out of poverty in the last nine years of the Modi government. The basis of the claim was the access of several benefits of the central schemes such as housing, health, nutrition, and others to the people.
Ramesh said: “Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) was one of the main promises of our manifesto for the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. We fulfilled this promise within a year, passing the law in 2005 and implementing it in early 2006. This scheme has proved to be a game changer for rural India. Research over the last 18 years shows that it has increased rural incomes, reduced poverty and hunger and has proven to be most beneficial for women and SC/ST/OBC workers.“