Reiterating the UPA government's commitment to better and faster implementation of its ongoing uplift programmes, union rural development minister C P Joshi said yestersday that the government has set a target to construct 12 million houses for poor villagers during the next five years. This would be nearly of those built between 2005 and 2009.
Briefing the media in New Delhiabout the performance of his ministry in the last quarter and its future plans, Joshi said the Indira Awas Yojana, one of the government's flagship schemes of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, would be given a further thrust.
Joshi said the pioneering National Rural Employment Guarantee Act now encompasses the entire country and has the potential to transform the lives of rural households. The new initiatives in NREGA aimed at bringing about more transparency and accountability include setting up a district level ombudsman, an eminent citizens' panel, enlarging the scope of works under NREGA, enforcing mandatory social audits, collaboration with UIDA to develop the identification system for the residents, and a toll free National Helpline for the protection of workers entitlements under the Act.
He said that the scope of works permissible under NREGA had already been enlarged to include irrigation facilities, horticulture plantation and land development facilities for land owned small or marginal farmers.
Gram Panchayats have been asked to ensure that works on lands of scheduled castes or tribes and below poverty line families receive priority.
On the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, the minister said that several new initiatives have been undertaken including e-procurement, social audits, and quality control measures to ensure rural road connectivity.
Joshi highlighted the importance of participation of women at grassroots in decision-making through the provision of 50 per cent reservation for women in panchayats. He also said a draft cabinet note has been circulated among the ministries for their comments on restructuring the 'backwards regions grant fund' scheme.