MGNREGA: Is the govt expecting unemployment levels to change soon?

News: Recently finance minister released Union Budget 2022-23.

This article discusses the regressive nature of budget in terms of social welfare.

Why the budget 2022-2023 appears regressive in nature with respect to social welfare?

One, last year only Rs 73,000 crore was budgeted but the allocation for MGNREGA was increased to Rs 1.11 trillion due to pandemic. The funds were utilized within seven months itself and 23 states/UTs used more money than they received but still there are complaints of delay in payments.

This year again MGNREGA budget estimate is again Rs 73,000 crore. It appears that government is expecting jobs to increase.

Two, under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, 60 per cent of the population, receive 6 kg of free grain and dal. But the budget has not given clarity on its continuance.

Three, the mid-day meal scheme saw budget cut in 2021–22 and the Revised Estimate was lower. The scheme has been renamed PM Poshan but the allocation is same this year. If it is adjusted for inflation, it will be lower by 40 per cent.

Poshan Abhiyan aims to improve nutritional outcomes by 2022, but the government had released only 46 per cent of the annual outlay by October 31, 2020. Also, in 2021, the budget was cut by 27 per cent.

Four, the expenditure on ICDS was also lower in nominal terms in 2021-22 compared to 2014–15. ICDS schemes reduce the mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school dropout and enhance the capability of the mother. But Inflation adjusted expenditure is 36 per cent lower for 2021–22 compared to 2014.

The ICDS was clubbed with the Poshan Abhiyan, the Scheme for Adolescent Girls, and the National Creche Scheme, and now known as Saksham. Its budget for 2021–22 was less than the previous year’s budget for the ICDS alone and estimates for 2022-23 is unchanged from last year revised estimate.

Five, the Drinking Water and Sanitation Department saw its budget rise but Rs 50,000 crore of that was for the Central Road and Infrastructure Fund. It suggests an act of cover up to avoid questions.

Six, the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana was clubbed with the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme for girls’ education, the Mahila Shakti Kendra and other general gender budgeting. It is now known as Samarthya. It received less than allocated funds in 2021-22 and there is no direct reference to it in 2022-23 Budget.

Seven, the allocation for Ayushman Bharat was Rs 6,400 crore in 2021–22 which was same as previous year. But the Revised Estimates show that only Rs 585 crore was actually spent.

Source: This post is based on the article “MGNREGA: Is the govt expecting unemployment levels to change soon?” published in Business Standard on 2nd Feb 2022.

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