New Delhi: The government is not short of any money for farmer and labour-related payments, Rural Development Minister Birender Singh said.

“We have cleared pending payments of Rs 60,000 crore which were due to sugar cane farmers. We have paid everything other than Rs 700 crore related to few farmers of a specific area which will also be cleared shortly,” he said at a pre-budget discussion organised by TV channel Aaj Tak.

“We had a Budget of Rs 37,000 crore for MNREGA and we have already disbursed 92 percent of the money,” the minister said, also adding that the central government was never slow in clearing dues to drought-affected areas.

“At least 10 states sent us timely reports on drought situation and we cleared payments for them immediately. If some state government fail to identify whether its people are affected by drought or not it is not our fault,” he said.

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Former rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad, who was a part of the panel discussion, suggested that the government should include farmland of the poor farmers in the general category under the rural job guarantee scheme as well.

“The BPL (below poverty line) farmers of general category must be allowed to use MNREGA workers as farm labourers for cultivation. They can pay a portion of their labour while the rest can be borne by the government,” said the Rashtriya Janata Dal leader, who was rural development minister when the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) scheme was launched.

At present, the farm lands on which MNREGA work is carried out are lands of farmers of scheduled caste and scheduled tribe categories.