New Delhi, March 16 (IANS) The budget was “trendsetting from the rural sector point of view” with allocations for rural development increased by Rs.8,000 crore, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said Friday.
He said allocation for rural development including drinking water, sanitation and social welfare was Rs.91,000 crore in 2011-12 and had gone up to about Rs.99,000 crore for 2012-13.
Ramesh said spending on rural development was the second largest expenditure in the union budget, next only to defence.
He said allocation for sanitation and drinking water had gone up from Rs.11,000 crore in the current fiscal to Rs.14,000 crore and he had been assured by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee that an additional Rs.1,000 crore will be provided in November this year.
“Rural sanitation and drinking water is getting the attention it deserves,” the minister said.
Ramesh added that he had been reading budget speeches of finance ministers since 1985 and sanitation had hardly found a mention.
The minister said allocation for Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) had been increased from Rs.20,000 to Rs.24,000 crore and the move will help accelerate work on rural roads in states such as Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Assam.
The minister said Mukherjee had accepted his proposal to set up Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation, which will have a corpus of Rs.1,000 crore. Half the money for the corpus will come from private funding.
He said the foundation will help civil society organisations working in tribal areas.
He said Rs.25 crore had been provided to the Institute of Rural Management, Anand and Rs.50 crore to establish a world-class centre in Kolkota for water quality with focus on arsenic contamination.
“We will set up the institute very quickly,” the minister said.
He said the ministry intends to universalise Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act payments using Aadhaar (unique identification number) system in two years.
The minister said old age and disability pension had been increased from Rs.200 to Rs.300 in the budget.
However, he added that his suggestion of bringing down eligibility for old age pension from 40 years to 18 years and reducing eligibility for disability pension from 80 percent disability to 40 percent had yet not been accepted.
“I hope, when he (Finance Minister) replies (to debate on budget proposals), he will accept these demands,” Ramesh said.
NSAP, which came into effect in 1995, aims at ensuring minimum national standard for social assistance to the poor in addition to the benefits that states provide. NSAP, at present, comprises of Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS), Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS), Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS), Annapurna and National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS).