MGNREGS: Modi govt arm-twists Telangana for building crop drying platforms

The KCR government in Telangana is being forced into yet another round of confrontation with the Centre, this time over the alleged diversion of MGNREGS funds

MGNREGS: Modi govt arm-twists Telangana for building crop drying platforms

HYDERABAD: The Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) government in Telangana led by K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) is being forced into yet another round of confrontation with the Centre, this time over the NDA government's 'canards' under the garb of alleged diversion of MGNREGS funds. The Narendra Modi government's statement in Parliament that a recovery of Rs 151.91 crores had been ordered from Telangana for utilising them for purposes not prescribed under the employment assurance scheme has stoked the fresh fire in the already frosty Centre-state relations.

Not willing to gulp down yet another malicious campaign by the Centre against Telangana, BRS Working President and IT Minister K T Rama Rao gave a call for staging demonstrations in all the district headquarter towns in the state on Friday. The BRS protest plan is meant to highlight and expose the truth in the Centre's allegations on diversion of funds under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in the state.

Union Minister of State for Rural Development Sadhvi Niranjan Jyothi answered in affirmative in the Lok Sabha to a question posed by Congress MP from Telangana Revanth Reddy. The TPCC chief sought to know if "the Centre has directed Telangana to return Rs 151.91 crores for diverting the employment assurance funds for works that were not allowed under the guidelines of the scheme." Replying in affirmative, the Union Minister of State asserted that the recovery of funds were ordered based on the recommendations of a Central team that monitored the scheme-related works in Telangana in June this year.

"The Telangana Government has constructed crop drying platforms in the state under the employment assurance scheme (MGNREGS). Schedule-1 of the Act does not permit these works to be taken up under the scheme," the Union Minister of State said.

The Centre's fresh accusations, coming as the latest in a protracted tussle with the State, has obviously not gone down well with the Telangana Government.

KTR's call for statewide protests against the alleged misinformation campaign by the BJP-led Centre reflected the State government's resolve to expose the twin designs of the latest decision. The BRS government feels that while the farming community would be the most imminent casualty from the recovery of MGNREGS funds, the Centre was using this as yet another ploy to tarnish Telangana's image and paint it in bad light.

While exhorting the farmers to join the protests in large numbers, KTR demanded an explanation from the BJP-led Union government as to how construction of crop drying platforms in Telangana under the scheme could be construed as 'going against the norms', when building of fish drying platforms in other states could be justified under the same scheme.

The BRS working president, in a statement, alleged that the BJP had been constantly discriminating against Telangana despite the State government initiating several novel schemes for the welfare of the farming community. He sought to remind the Centre that Telangana was the first in the country to construct the crop drying platforms to benefit the farmers.

He said that the Centre was spreading misinformation by stating that construction of the drain drying platforms was a diversion of MGNREGS funds. KTR said that the Central government served a notice to the State asking to return ₹151 crore spent on the construction of the agri-produce drying platforms under the scheme. He said that the Central government was bent on maligning, conspiring against Telangana government without considering the benefits such works accrue to farmers.

"Rather than appreciating the good work, the BJP is clearly seeking vengeance and hell bent to tarnish the image of the Telangana government among the people. How could the Centre find fault with the State government for constructing the crop drying platforms, when it does not mind fish drying platforms being constructed in other States under the same scheme," KTR wondered.

KTR also alleged that the Narendra Modi government at the Centre was actually keen on weakening the scheme that was providing livelihood for people across the country. "The BRS and the State government have been repeatedly asking the Union government to link the MGNREGS with agricultural works and ensure optimum utilisation of the scheme. However, there has been no response from the Centre which is now keen to weaken the scheme," he claimed.

"The BJP has done nothing for the benefit of the farmers and when the BRS government took up several revolutionary initiatives, it is unable to admit its failures. The BJP is targeting the Telangana government due to its inability to compete with the State in agricultural development," the BRS Working President remarked.

He said that at a time when employment opportunities had come down after COVID and the rural economy was in crisis, the Centre reduced funds allotted to the MGNREGS and imposed various rules. With this, he said, Narendra Modi led government prevented the construction of 79,000 more drying platforms with ₹750 crores by Telangana State. Questioning what is wrong if the Employment Guarantee Scheme benefits farmers, KTR reiterated the demand to include the agriculture and allied works in the Scheme. The BRS Working President said that this would be of help to farmers as the hike in prices of fertilizers and fuel have increased the investment cost in farming.

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