The Narendra Modi government has allocated an amount of Rs 38,500 crore for the financial year 2016-2017 to revive the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme to boost employment generation and development of rural areas in the country. This is among a slew of measures initiated by the government to revive and improve the scheme.
Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Aparajita Sarangi, Joint Secretary to the Ministry of Rural Development, talked about the measures being taken under the present government to revive and improve the rural jobs scheme, which came into effect in 2006.
“This government is committed to the development of rural areas and also to revive the MGNREGA by allocating an amount of Rs 38,500 crore for the financial year 2016-2017 in MGNREGA alone for providing employment to the rural population,” Sarangi said.
There are 6.5 lakh villages in the country that are covered under MGNREGA and each state government is also supposed to allocate additional funds to the tune of Rs 5,000 crore each for the MGNREGA scheme. However, the scheme has received criticism for the lack of effective implementation, alleged siphoning of funds and denial of employment to poor people. Sarangi said that the scheme would be improved in the coming years. “India is a vast country, with 29 states and several states having different government structures and in a scheme as huge as this, loopholes do exist, but we are working tirelessly to minimise such loopholes that exploit the poor,” she said.
“We are working to make the state governments accountable for the funds and the scheme. We will work on delayed payments, creation of assets, construction of infrastructure and focus on building individual assets,” she added. The government is also focusing on creating a “balance” among the poorest states in the rural sector through “effective governance” by the creation of a “Backward Index”.
“We have identified 2,569 blocks across the country through the NITI Aayog, that need our immediate attention for development in the rural sector and we will go the extra mile to focus on these blocks for this financial year,” Sarangi said.
‘A WhatsApp group of all the state secretaries called “ENCORE” has been created, to receive updates from time to time on the progress of work in the respective states’.
“I will personally monitor the funds going to these blocks and would get a detailed report on the work done and the employment status from these blocks to check that no misuse or diversion of funds takes place,” she said. The government has also consolidated the 1,039 circulars related to MGNREGA into one comprehensive “master circular” for the simplification of the scheme. The master circular runs into 65 pages and would be effective from April this year.
The ministry is also focusing on watershed management, building of metalled roads, five lakh ponds, 10 lakh vermi compost pits, which would provide natural fertilizers for farms, building one lakh toilets, and 50,000 Anganwadi centres in financial year 2016-17.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sanchayee Yojana (PMKSY), the ministry will also undertake protection and management of natural resources in the rural areas.
According to Sarangi, the ambitious target of the ministry would be met through effective implementation of the scheme across the country and continuous monitoring. “I will personally visit two states every month to take stock of the situation of all the schemes and plans of the ministry, so that we are able to achieve our targets by the set dates. This government is committed to the development of rural areas and funds are being appropriately released to expedite schemes,” she said. Taking a cue from the Prime Minister’s Digital India initiative, a WhatsApp (internet based messaging application) group of all the state secretaries called “ENCORE” (Enabling Communication on Rural Empowerment) has been created, to receive updates from time to time on the progress of work in the respective states, she said.