Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) enacted in 2005 aims to provide 100 days of work to unskilled poor people living in rural areas.
Moving a Calling Attention Motion, D Raja (CPI) said, "MNREGA enacted by UPA government was part of the common minimum programme, which was supported by Left parties. Now, what the BJP-led government is doing is that they are weakening and diluting the act. They are giving indication to say 'good-bye' to the scheme. This is a serious situation."
The government has reduced the budget allocation under MNREGA for this fiscal, restricted the coverage area to few districts and changed the labour and material ration under the scheme -- thereby diluting the objective of the law, he added.
CPI and other members urged the government not to undermine the law by bringing these changes and encourage "benami contractors and corruption" under the scheme.
Replying to the motion, Rural Development Minister Birender Singh, however, said the MNREGA has achieved significant results in the last eight years and the continuous endeavour of the government is to "further streamline and improve" implementation of the scheme.
"The current focus of the government is to ensure both wage employment generation and creation of quality assets," he said, adding several steps have been taken to ensure creation of productive and sustainable assets.
The government has amended the law to allow 60 percent of the works to be taken in a district for creating productive assets be directly linked to agriculture and allied activities through development of land, water and trees, he said.
To promote quality asset creation, convergence of MNREGA with the schemes of line departments is being encouraged. The Centre has also allowed payment of remuneration from the skilled wage component to technical assistants employed on the ground to supervise the work of quality assets, he said.
The Minister said the government is also laying emphasis on ensuring "transparency and accountability" in the implementation of the scheme.
To ensure smooth flow of funds and reduce delay in payment of wages, Singh said a strong management information system has been put in place. Electronic fund management system is operational and being further strengthened and social audit is being encouraged.
States have also framed their grievance redressal rules and appointed Ombudsman in accordance with the act, the minister said.
Highlighting the significant results of the MNREGA in the last eight years, he said around Rs 1,80,000 crore have been paid as wages to the workers in the last 8 years.
On an average, around 5 crore households, which is close to 29 percent of the total rural households, are provided employment under the scheme every year. Around 54 percent of MNREGA workers are women and close to 40 percent are schedule caste and schedule tribes, he said.
The Act has ensured considerable financial inclusion with around 9.76 crore accounts of MNREGA workers being in banks and post offices, he said.
Stating that the minister's reply covered all points, Ram Narain Dudi (BJP) insisted that there should not be change in the labour-material ratio.
Raising concerns about corruption in the scheme, he said panchayats are allotting jobs to their own people. "Wrong entries are made and figures manipulated. So, monitoring and supervision is required," he said.
Expressing dissatisfaction, P Rajeeve (CPI-M) said that minister's statement is "misleading" and does not cover the issues raised by the members.
Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP) said government is diluting the scheme and eventually trying to wind up for the benefit of corporates.
"Are you serious about continuing the scheme?" he asked the government and demanded increasing the number of working days from the current 100 days to provide social security to poor people.
Nadimul Hague (AITC) said the government is not "abolishing" but reducing the budget allocation for the scheme. "15 of India's leading economists have opposed revising the scheme," he said.
He sought to know why the government wants to restrict the coverage and bring down the labour-material ration from 60:40 to 51:49.

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