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    Rural development ministry plans big push to MNREGA to tackle drought

    Synopsis

    The rural development ministry is preparing for a big push to its flagship employment generation programme as drought has depressed demand for farm labour.

    The rural development ministry is preparing for a big push to MNREGA as drought has depressed demand for farm labour

    NEW DELHI: The rural development ministry is preparing for a big push to its flagship employment generation programme as drought has depressed demand for farm labour.

    The ministry has written to state governments asking them to identify development projects under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) to ensure there's enough work available for those in need.

    "We expect demand for work and wages to go up in the coming months and are preparing for it. Our ministry wants to ensure that MNREGA is available to anyone in distress," rural development secretary Vijay Kumar told ET.

    Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has already written to state chief ministers affected by deficient rainfall, asking them to prepare a list of new projects that could be incorporated in the MNREGA programme.

    Ramesh is now touring drought-hit states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat and Rajasthan with agriculture minister Sharad Pawar to assess the water scarcity situation.

    While the all-India rainfall deficiency average at 21%, some states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan have been worse off with deficiencies as high as 64% and 78%.
    The Centre wants to expedite the implementation of new projects under MNREGA to generate enough jobs as demand for employment goes up, mainly from agricultural workers.

    "We have already started getting reports of an increase in demand for MNREGA jobs from some states, but the data is preliminary," Kumar said.

    He feels that fund requirement for additional projects will not be a problem.

    Although allocation for NREGA was curtailed to Rs 33,000 crore this budget from Rs 40,000 crore in 2011-12, states have surplus left over from the previous year. "We have enough money to fund additional job creation under MNREGA," he said.

    MNREGA has provided 5.50 crore families or nearly one in four rural households with over 250 crore person-days of work under the programme.

    Delay in payments and leakages have, however, dented the scheme's initial popularity, which many attributed as one of the reasons for UPA's return to power in 2009. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, too, recently criticised the scheme for the delay in payments.

    But this time round, the rural development ministry seems determined to weed out any delays. "As demand for wages and jobs go up in the coming months, we will ensure that our ministry is prompt to release funds demanded by states and also urge state governments to do their bit to ensure that payment reaches workers on time," another official in the ministry told ET.

    The Centre is also working on ensuring that MNREGA workers get their payments directly from banking correspondents using their Aadhar numbers, a step that will check bogus identity and reduce delayed payments.
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    4 Comments on this Story

    Satyabrat Maharana3046 days ago
    MNREGA is a good concept but in reality it is a falure.
    it should attach to asset creation such as road,irrigation..
    prem3046 days ago
    MNREGA is a failure if amount to work completed is checked, it is just a tool to distribute money for free. Better would have been that govt set up local employment exchanges so that rural employment becomes organised. It is no that people do not have work in rural areas, work is always there and infact there is shortage of people who genuinly want to work. Those who did not want to work had less money and with MNAREGA they even get it without working.
    Suresh B3046 days ago
    The current allocation of 33,000 crores is a huge amount - I wonder why the government is thinking of increasing this further - instead, we need to focus on ensuring that these funds are effectively used. Even if we achieve a 25% increase in this efficacy, folks will benefit in the near-term as well as in the long-term! I hope private entities monitoring MNREGA will intensify efforts to ensure effective implementation of this scheme!
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