By Rajesh Pandathil & Kishor Kadam
At a time when the much-debated MGNREGA completes 10 years, the scheme, which provides 100 days of job a year for the rural poor, has become a political hot potato.
The Narendra Modi government, which had once rubbished the scheme, has started praising it. For the beginners, Modi had once termed it as a monument of the Congress' failure.
The Congress, which originally conceived and implemented the scheme, has, meanwhile, snubbed the NDA's praise saying it is better late than never that the BJP-led coalition recognised its worth.
"It shows how the landmark legislation has changed the lives of the rural poor," Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi has said.
But the war of words did not stop at that. The NDA has now again come out with statements saying under the UPA, the scheme was actually in a pitiable condition.
"When there was a change of government in 2014-15, there was a talk in and outside Parliament on whether the scheme will be discontinued or its fund allocation will be curtailed. But the new government not only took forward the scheme but also increased its fund," finance minister Arun Jaitley today said claiming the NDA transformed the scheme.
While the battle is unlikely to end that soon, one thing is for sure - when the rural economy is in distress due to droughts and debt, the scheme will be one tool that can come handy for the government to provide support for the needy.
Since the start of the programme, the government has spent Rs 3,13,844.55 crore and out of this 71 percent has been spent on wage payments to workers. The total number of persondays stands at 1,980.01 crore and the percentage worked by women has increased much above the statutory minimum of 33 percent.
Here are seven graphics that will show how the scheme progressed in these years:
While the number of job cards issued has increased 240 percent over the 10 years, in FY15 and FY16 (until 1 February) the issuance has declined marginally. In FY14, the issuance hit a high of 13.15 crore.
The number of households that got jobs has increased 89.5 percent over 10-year period. However, the number hit a high of 5.49 crore in FY11 and ever since it is declining steadily.
The number of persondays is also not much different. After hitting a high of 283.59 crore in FY10, this parameter has been on a decline. In FY15, the number of days actually fell to 166.36 crore, near the FY08 level. On the whole, the persondays has increased 76 percent during 10 years.
As far as Budget outlay is concerned, the overall increase has been 207 percent. The highest outlay the scheme got was Rs 40,100 crore in FY11. In FY12, the allocation fell to Rs 31,000 crore and then to Rs 30,287 crore. After that, the allocation is increasing steadily but only marginally.
Total expenditure on the scheme has seen a 288 percent increase in 10 years - from just Rs 8823 crore in FY07 to Rs 34,227 crore in FY16. The highest yearly expenditure has been Rs 39,778 crore in FY13. The spending has been declining ever since.
The steepest increase was seen in wages expenditure - 326.3 percent - over 10 years. The highest was in FY13 at Rs 27,154 core, that was the year when the total expenditure also hit a high of Rs 39,778 crore.
Wage, as a percent of total expenditure, has remained in 66-73 percent range throughout the 10-year period. The proportion has been the highest at 73 percent in FY14 and FY16.