Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday accused the government of reducing MNREGA allocation, triggering a response by Minister Giriraj Singh who said that the allocation have been increased. Raising the issue during the Zero Hour, the Congress President said the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guatantee Act 2005 was laughed at by the BJP government, but it played a crucial role in helping crores of poor families during the Covid-19 pandemic. “There has been continuous reduction in the budget allocated for MGNREGA, at a time when unemployment is continuously increasing.This year’s MGNREGA budget is 35 percent less as compared to 2020,” the Rae Bareli MP said. “Budget cuts lead to delay in payment of workers, which the Hon’ble Supreme Court has termed as ‘forced labour’. On March 26 of the same year, all other states have shown negative balance in their account under the scheme, with about Rs 5,000 crore outstanding for payments to workers.” She said that all the states were recently apprised that their labour budget will not be approved till they appoint a ‘Lokpal’ and fulfill the terms and conditions of social audit. “Social audit definitely should be made effective. Labourers should get their payment,” the Congress president said. “I request the Central government to allocate appropriate funds for MGNREGA, secondly to ensure payment of labourers within 15 days of work, thirdly to compensate labourers in case of delay in payment of wages,” the Congress MP said. Responding to the Congress president’s remarks, Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh said allocations for the scheme have been increased. “What the leader has said is far from the truth. I will answer every point, Rs. 33,000 crore was MNREGA Budget in 2013-14, today the allocation is above Rs. 1,12,000 crore,” Singh said. Union Minister Anurag Thakur also backed him, and alleged that the employment guarantee scheme was ridden by corruption during the UPA regime. “During UPA times even the allocated Budget was not spent. The Modi government provided over Rs. 1,11,000 crore for it… In their time it was ridden by corruption. Today MNREGA money goes into accounts of people at the click of a button, Narendra Modi did this,” Thakur said. Congress MPs created an uproar and demanded that they are also allowed to respond to the remarks made by the Ministers. Thakur said it was the first time he was seeing MPs unhappy even as the Minister had given a reply. “Seeing this for the first time that an MP raised an issue, the minister replied, and the Opposition is protesting that, they should be happy. This shows the Opposition wants to do only politics while in their time there was corruption in MNREGA. ” “I am seeing this for the first time that an MP raised an issue, the minister replied, and the Opposition is protesting… They should be happy. This shows the Opposition wants only to do politics while, in their time, MNREGA was full of corruption,” he said. As Congress MPs continued to protest, the Chair said the government had the right to reply to issues raised by MPs during Zero Hour.