Senior Congress leaders and Cabinet Ministers G.S. Bali, Sudhir Sharma and Anil Sharma have denounced the statement of former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal regarding release of funds by the Government of India under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and added that the BJP leader was misleading the people in this regard.
Cabinet Ministers termed the accusations totally false, factually incorrect and presented a weak cover for the reduction in funds under the programme by the Centre Government. They said his accusations were politically motivated and not in the larger interest of the State.
The Ministers said that the Dhumal was intentionally hiding the fact that the Union Government had slashed approved MGNREGA labour budget of Rs. 761.71 crores to Rs. 355.43 crore for the year 2014-15. Himachal Pradesh Government has strongly raised objections on the cut in MNREGA funds at various levels but the Government of India has expressed its inability to release the fund as per approved labour budget for the year 2014-15 on the plea that the approved labour budget was higher to the available funds under the scheme.
They said that Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has raised this issue before the Prime Minister Narender Modi and urged him to release the balance amount to the State so that activities under this programme could be carried out expeditiously.
The Ministers claimed that Union Government had approved Rs. 761.71 crore labour budget for the State during the year 2014-15 under MGNREGA out of which Rs. 670.71 crore was central share. Rs. 740.58 crore was required for current financial year after deducting the tentative opening balance of Rs. 21.13 crore. So far, the Union Government has released only Rs. 355.43 crore to the State under the labour budget of MGNREGA.
They said instead of supporting the concern raised by the State Government, Leader of opposition was trying to mislead the people by issuing statements which were contrary to the facts and politically motivated.
They said the State Government was implementing MGNREGA in an effective manner and during the last financial year the state spent Rs. 571.22 crore under the scheme by generating 282.47 lakh man-days against the approved labour budget of Rs. 273.19 lakh man-day’s. The State achieved 103 percent of the labour budget projection during last financial year with sufficient availability of funds provided by the Union Government under the Scheme.
The Ministers said that Union Rural Development Ministry had approved labour budget projection for the current financial year of 276.80 lakh man-days for the State. It was a matter of concern that as per the revised allocation of funds indicated by the concerned Ministry during the performance review committee meeting held on 18th and 19th September, 2014, the allocation of central share to the State has been reduced to only Rs. 355.43 crore.
They said that the State had already started implementation of MGNREGA as per approved labour budget adding that the substantial reduction in the central allocation would adversely affect the implementation of the scheme. Moreover, the paucity of funds will also result in non-adherence to the legal provisions mandated in the act, they added.
Earlier former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal had accused Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh for misleading people over the release of MNREGA funds and stated that the Centre has released all the money to the state.
The leader of opposition claimed that following reports of irregularities in implementation of MNREGA in some states during the UPA regime, the Union government had started asking for submission of completion report ‘online’ for 60 per cent work done under the scheme, and the funds of the states which failed to submit the report were withheld and the labour was not being paid.