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MGNREGA workdays increased from 100 to 150 in drought-affected areas

PTI 18 Jun 2015, 10:20:01 IST

New Delhi: Battling opposition charge of pursuing "anti-poor" policies, the NDA government has decided to increase the number of workdays under MGNREGA from 100 days to 150 days in drought-hit areas.

The law has been criticised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a "living example of Congress's failure".

"A policy decision has been taken that if a family requires 150 days of work under MNREGA in a drought affected region, it should be provided. Some of the states are affected by drought. "The ministry has decided that the number of workdays under the rural job guarantee scheme could be increased from 100 to 150 in drought-affected areas," Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh said.

With the Monsoon playing truant in a number of regions and the government already facing the heat on farmers' issues, the move could help the government ward off some of the criticism that its policies are not helping the poor.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, launched just before the last Lok Sabha polls in 2009, had benefitted Congress electorally. The scheme, in which half of the beneficiaries are women, roughly reaches every fifth household in the rural areas. The scheme is in operation in 632 districts in the country.

MGNREGA promises 100 days of work every year to rural households across the country. The Centre will bear the cost of providing work to rural households for 50 more days and it will be applicable to only the households which complete 100 days of work.

The trend, however, so far shows that only a few households take up 100 days work under MGNREGA and hence it remains to be seen how many households actually seek work for more than 100 days even in the drought-hit regions.

Congress had recently accused the government of "diluting and weakening" MGNREGA just because it was brought by the UPA. Countering the charge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said in Parliament during the Budget session that MGNREGA will continue and that it is "living example of Congress's failure".

The decision to increase the wagedays in drought-hit areas has been taken as Government is expecting an increase in demand for wage-based employment due to drought affecting regular agricultural activities in some regions.