Modified MGNREGA to merge employment and agricultural programmes

18 July 2014

The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) in its Report on Price Policy for Kharif Crops of 2013-14 Season has recommended a fusion between Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and agricultural operations, under which half of the wage is paid by the farmer and the other half by the scheme.

The government has, accordingly, issued revised guidelines for convergence of the MGNREGA with programmes of the ministry of agriculture and has notified 30 new works under MGNREGA, a majority of which relate to agriculture and allied activities, minister of state for agriculture and food processing industries Sanjeev Kumar Balyan informed the Rajya Sabha in a written reply today.

The programme, assuring 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural household, has been subject to allegations of misuse and corruption. Much of the expenditure has allegedly been wasteful in nature, which only helped to push up prices, it was pointed out.

The Modi government, which is committed to creating more jobs in rural India, has decided to continue with the MGNREGA, the previous UPA's government's flagship rural employment programme, but under a revamped form to make it 'development-oriented'.

"The government is committed to providing wage and self-employment opportunities in rural areas. However, wage employment would be provided under MGNREGA through works that are more productive, asset creating and substantially linked to agriculture and allied activities," said finance minister Arun Jaitley is his budget speech.

The BJP government has allocated Rs34,000 crore for the rural job scheme, allaying fears that the new dispensation may scuttle the programme altogether. The outlay for 2013-14 was Rs 33,000 crore.

Calling for an urgent revamp of the programme, the Economic Survey had found MNREGA responsible for labour shortages among smll and medium enterprises and a price hike in the food sector, among other things.

The government has also promised safe drinking water in around 20,000 habitations, affected with arsenic, fluoride, heavy / toxic elements and pesticides, through community water purification plants over the next three years. The budget allocated Rs3,600 crore under 'National Rural Drinking Water Programme' for the purpose.

For encouraging rural youth, the government announced a "Start-Up Village Entrepreneurship Programme" with an initial corpus of Rs 100 crore.

The corpus of Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF), operated by NABARD, has been raised to Rs25,000 crore to create infrastructure in agriculture and rural sectors.

The road connectivity in rural areas too gets enhanced attention with the government allocating Rs14,389 crore under Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana, initiated during the NDA-I regime under Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The centre would also restructure Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF), currently implemented in 272 backward districts in 27 states, to fill up critical gaps in development of basic infrastructure facilities and for capacity-building of panchayats and gram sabhas. The restructuring would focus on addressing intra-district inequalities.

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