Our Bureau

New Delhi, Aug 23

THE Lok Sabha today passed the National Rural Employment Guarantee Bill 2005 through voice vote. The Bill guarantees 100 days job in a year to one member per household and a minimum wage of Rs 60 per day even if the State Act provides a lower ceiling.

The scheme will be launched in 200 districts in the first phase.

However, if the wages under the State Act is more than Rs 60 in a particular State, the workers will be paid in accordance with the State Act under this scheme.

A last-minute amendment to this effect was moved by the Minister for Rural Development, Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, in the Lok Sabha, which later passed the Bill by a voice-vote.

Mr Singh said that as per the modified Bill, in case the minimum wage in a particular State is less than Rs 60, the beneficiary under the scheme will get an amount of Rs 60. Likewise, if the minimum wage is more than Rs 60, the beneficiary under this scheme will get higher wages as applicable under the State laws.

The Minister also assured the Parliament that the Government would provide equivalent amount as "unemployment allowance" if it failed to give the promised job.

The Minister also said that a similar Bill would be introduced for providing jobs in urban areas.

"The Government will soon take up another Bill to remove urban poverty by ensuring employment in urban areas," Mr Singh said while winding up the 12-hour-long two-day debate in which more than 70 members participated.

Mr Singh said that under the proposed legislation, the panchayats have been given the role of implementing the scheme. As per the provisions of the Bill, the panchayats at district, intermediate and village levels shall be the principal authorities for planning and implementation of the schemes. The district programme coordinator will assist the panchayat at the district level in discharging its functions under the scheme, he said.

The amendments moved by the Government also provide priority to women workers and seek at least 33 per cent reservation for them, who have registered and requested for work under the scheme. The Government moved a total of 52 amendments to the original Bill, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December, 2004. Mr Singh denied that previous employment generating schemes have failed. An amount of Rs 89,000 crore was disbursed by the Government and nearly 1,800-crore mandays work was done through earlier schemes, he said.

He said more projects under the proposed scheme would be included as per the advice of State Governments.

The Minister said the Planning Commission will notify the names of 50 districts in addition to existing 150 districts under the food-for-work programme, which will be covered under the phase one of the scheme.

All the amendments proposed by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) including reduction of period of implementing the scheme from five years to two years were rejected by a voice-vote.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 24, 2005)
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