Funds hiked 144 percent for ambitious rural job scheme


New Delhi : Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has allocated a whopping Rs.39,100 crore for the Congress-led government’s flagship scheme under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), a hefty 144 percent hike over the previous budget estimates.

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Reiterating the government’s commitment to the scheme that promises 100 days of employment to rural youth, the finance minister said in his budget speech Monday that 4.47 crore households were covered under NREGA last year as against 3.39 crore earlier.

“I propose an allocation of Rs.39,100 crore for the year 2009-10 for NREGA which marks an increase of 144 percent over the 2008-09 budget estimates,” Mukherjee said.

The finance minister also announced hefty increases in allocations to several other key rural development programmes.

Bharat Nirman, a bouquet of six developmental schemes, gets 45 percent more while a rural roads initiative, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, under it has been allocated Rs.12,000 crore, an increase of 59 percent over the 2008-09 figures.

The finance minister has provided Rs.7,000 crore to the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Viduytikaran Yojana (RGGVY), a rural electrification programme, a 27 percent increase over 2008-09. Similarly, allocation for the Indira Awaas Yojana for rural housing has been hiked by 63 percent to Rs.8,800 crore.

Mukherjee announced a scheme for villages with high population of the Scheduled Castes. He said there were about 44,000 villages in which the population of Scheduled Castes was above 50 percent.

“A new scheme called Pradhan Mantri Adarsh Gram (ideal village) Yojana is being launched this year on a pilot basis, for the integrated development of 1,000 such villages. I propose an allocation of Rs.100 crore for this scheme,” he said.

The finance minister said each village would be able to avail “gap funding of Rs.10 lakh over and above the allocations under rural development and poverty alleviation schemes.” He said the scheme would be extended on successful implementation of the pilot phase.