Sonia Gandhi calls MGNREGA a powerful mechanism to help people, asks Centre not to play politics 'in time of crisis'

Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on Monday made an impassioned plea for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to be depoliticised, saying it is a powerful mechanism that can be used to help the people of India in 'their time of need.'

FP Staff June 08, 2020 10:03:59 IST
Sonia Gandhi calls MGNREGA a powerful mechanism to help people, asks Centre not to play politics 'in time of crisis'

Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on Monday made an impassioned plea for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to be depoliticised, saying it is a powerful mechanism that can be used to help the people of India in "their time of need".

Sonia, penning a column in the Indian Express, called MGNREGA a shining example of radical and rational systemic change that had proved its worth in the years it has been in existence, even enduring six years of a hostile government. Quoting from Mahatma Gandhi's book Freedom's Battle, Sonia said "when ridicule fails to kill a movement it begins to command respect" and that there was no better example of this in independent India than MGNREGA.

".... the Modi government tried its best to throttle the MGNREGA, hollowing it out and undermining it. But with the unrelenting pressure of activists, the courts and a vocal Opposition in Parliament, the government was forced to step back," Sonia wrote.

She claimed that the government, in a characteristic reversal of course, sought to give it a new appearance by integrating it with the prime minister’s pet programmes like Swachh Bharat and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and "passed off" as reforms, but in reality were no more than a barely disguised dressing up of Congress party initiatives.

"The COVID-19 pandemic and the distress it has unleashed has brought the Modi government full circle. Faced with unprecedented hardship and an economy already in slowdown, the government was obliged to fall back on the UPA’s flagship rural relief programme," Sonia wrote.

She argued that the Modi government may still be looking for some twisted logic to "reconcile its dislike of a Congress party programme with its wholesale adoption of it" but that the rest of the country recognised that it lifted millions out of extreme poverty, transformed the Panchayati Raj, contributed to mitigating the effects of climate change and revived the rural economy.

Sonia ended her column by stating that the Modi government had "grudgingly come around" to MGNREGA's significance and asked the government not to play politics during a time of national crisis.

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