Wants to improve the linkage of MGNREGS with agriculture

The National Democratic Alliance wants to convert the pet scheme of the United Progressive Alliance, the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) into a programme that creates quality assets.

The Rural Development Ministry has completed discussions with States to use the programme for increasing productivity in the agriculture sector. Though the Ministry says that it does not want to change the primary purpose of the MGNREGS as an employment project, the NDA wants to improve the quality of the programme. The Ministry hopes that the measures will help farmers to cope with droughts or prolonged dry periods.

A senior official in the Ministry said discussions with States on the proposed changes in the MGNREGS to bring focus on agriculture is over. He said almost all the States have welcomed the Centre’s proposal and the suggestions of the States will be incorporated in a Government order, which is expected next week.

The schedule of the MGNREG Act will be amended soon to ensure that the works taken up shall enhance agricultural productivity by creating infrastructure helpful for agriculture. The idea is to encourage works of projects such as rainwater harvesting, small check dams and water conservation.

The Schedule I of the Act will be amended to add a proviso that the District Programme Coordinator shall ensure that at least 60 per cent of the works to be taken up in a district shall be for creation of productive assets linked to agriculture and allied activities through development of land, water and trees.

“This is expected to bring at least ₹25,000 crore of investment into agriculture,” a Union Government note to the States said. Concerned over the poor asset quality due to focus on non-permanent earth works, absence of adequate technical staff for planning and lack of outcome orientation, the Centre has proposed that a special provision of 3 per cent of the value of works done will be created for technical supervision of the works.

“This amount will be used to deploy the required technical manpower to guide in the planning and execution,” the Ministry said. It has also suggested that the labour material ratio for works taken up by agencies other than Gram Panchayats will be counted at the District level. “This will allow deploying of an approximate ₹8,000 crore for creating crucial infrastructure like minor irrigation structures,” the Ministry hoped.

More supervision

To address the issue of leakages in implementation, a matter the BJP had raised when they were in Opposition, the Government has suggested that supervision and vigilance should be strengthened.

“The social audits are implemented in a routine manner contrary to the laid down Rules,” the Ministry said and added that social audits should be strengthened by establishing suitable mechanism that would identify, train and equip rural youth in overseeing implementation of the programme.

(This article was published on July 3, 2014)
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