PM criticised MGNREGA before Covid, realised its importance after pandemic: Ramesh

The Congress MP's remark came during an interaction with MGNREGA workers of Ranka block in Jharkhand’s Garhwa district

Jairam Ramesh (second from left) and Kanhaiya Kumar (standing) at the interaction (photo: @JairamRamesh/X)
Jairam Ramesh (second from left) and Kanhaiya Kumar (standing) at the interaction (photo: @JairamRamesh/X)


Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said on Wednesday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticised the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) before the Covid-19 pandemic but recognised its importance later.

Ramesh made the remark while interacting with MGNREGA workers of Ranka block in Jharkhand’s Garhwa district. He highlighted that the PM had strongly criticised MGNREGA before the pandemic, but later realised its significance as a crucial tool for providing employment opportunities.

"The prime minister had strongly criticised MGNREGA before Covid pandemic. But after the pandemic, he realised that there is no alternative to MGNREGA in the hands of the government to provide jobs," he said.

Ramesh was accompanied by Jharkhand Congress president Rajesh Thakur, Jharkhand in-charge Ghulam Ahmad Mir, NSUI national in-charge Kanhiya Kumar, and several other leaders during the interaction.

Though Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was scheduled to participate in the programme as part of the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, the second leg of his yatra in the Palamau region was cancelled.

Ramesh emphasised that MGNREGA was passed by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in 2005, when Dr Manmohan Singh was prime minister and Sonia Gandhi was chairman of the national advisory council.

He outlined the three objectives of the scheme, including securing jobs for jobless families, ensuring wages are credited to workers' bank accounts within 15 days, and strengthening public properties in every block and district.

Ramesh acknowledged the role of Belgian-born Indian welfare economist Jean Dreze in conceptualising MGNREGA, who was also present during the programme.

Kanhiya Kumar highlighted two major issues identified during the public hearing. "Workers want the guarantee that the scheme will be implemented properly and they will get the wages on time. A Jharkhand minister said they do not receive the state's share against the scheme from the Centre on time and the state government has to give wages from its other funds. Due to wrong policies and irregularities, the MGNREGA workers are suffering," Kumar said.

The public hearing was organised by Jharkhand NREGA Watch and NREGA Sangharsh Morcha.

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