Selja against including NREGA funds in Dalit plan

Can wages paid to NREGA workers from scheduled castes be counted as money spent on SCs' welfare?

The Rural Development Ministry believes it can, but Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Kumari Selja doesn't buy the argument. She has shot off a letter to the Planning Commission, questioning the rationale of including Rs 10,000 crore of NREGA funds in the SC sub-plan, under which a mandated 16.2% the percentage of SC population in India of the Central Plan outlay has to be spent on SCs.

"This department did not agree with the proposed methodology that expenditure on wage employment of SCs under NREGA may be used for computation of the sub plan as the amount spent on wages to SC beneficiaries is paid to them in exchange for their labour and work done. Similarly, PMGSY being an infrastructure development scheme, no imputation of expenditure under this scheme can be attributed to flow of SCs unless such benefits are going to SCs directly," Selja wrote last month to Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. The Rural Development Ministry claims Rs 2483.88 crore of the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana money meant to build village roads was spent on SCs.

Of the gross budgetary support of Rs 3,91,027 crore, the earmarked outlay for SCs as per the statement of 21 ministries which have a direct role in SC affairs is 37,113.03 crore, about Rs 26,000 crore less than what it should be according to the 16.2% sub plan allocation rule.

Selja's ministry imputes much of this deficit to the rural development ministry's refusal to earmark funds specifically for SC populations rather than making it incidental expenditure. "It is not correct to submit money spent on wages under SC sub plan because that is money the person has laboured for; it cannot be welfare. On the other hand if the rural development ministry will earmark funds in advance for villages with a high density of SCs and undertake works under both NREGA and PMSGY for these villages that would be an acceptable parameter for inclusion under SC sub plan," a source in her ministry said.

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