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MNREGA man-days to be increased: Rural development minister

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Amritsar: Farmers busy working in their fields on a hot day on the outskirts of Amritsar on June 8, 2015. (Photo: IANS)

 

Chandigarh:Union Rural Development Minister Birender Singh on Friday said the central government would increase the man-days under MNREGA from 100 to 150 in drought-hit areas, in view of the forecast of 14 percent less monsoon this season.

Talking to reporters here, Singh said there was a provision to appoint an ombudsman for MGNREGA to look into issues of public dealing.

“Also, the Comptroller and Auditor General has operationalised the social audit mechanism,” he said.

Singh said there was no question of changing the name of the previous government’s flagship program Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA).

“Compared to the previous budget allocation which was never more than Rs.34,000 crore, the present government has increased it to Rs.40,000 crore.”

He said there was budgetary ratio of 60:40 between labor and assets, which has been maintained by the present government.

On the central government’s land acquisition ordinance, the union minister said the government would not acquire an inch of land on behalf of private sector, but would acquire land for infrastructural development like roads, water works, railways and defense installations.

He clarified that when 18 states, including the opposition Congress-ruled states, were of the view that the land could not be acquired for development projects without amendment, only then was the ordinance referred to the joint parliamentary committee.

He said that any amendment in the ordinance made by the government would be in favor of the farming community.

On the steps taken for skill development of youth, the minister said 12 lakh youth would be imparted training in three years.

The government would bear the entire expenditure of their training as well as board and lodging. He said that 70 per cent of the trainees would have assured employment.

Singh said 679 MPs from both houses of parliament have given their consent to adopt villages in their constituencies and now project reports would be finalised by June 30. 

Development works would commence from the next month.

He said the target till 2016 was to let each MP adopt one village so as to make it a model village, but the target would be further enhanced and in the next five years, whereby each MP would adopt three villages.

He also said that a target has been fixed to supply piped water to 90 percent of the population by 2022.

(IANS)

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Women Turn into Well Diggers in Drought Hit Kerala Villages

Over 300 women in Palakkad district started digging wells to find a solution to the acute water scarcity in the drought-hit villages of Kerala

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Drought
Drought in Kerala 2017 drinking water supply. Wikimedia

Kerala, July 13, 2017: The dearth of water in the hamlet of Kerala has turned women into well diggers. It is estimated that over 300 women in Palakkad district of Kerala have started digging wells to find a solution to the acute water scarcity in the drought-hit villages of Kerala.

When the first signs of drought in Kerela appeared, the women in the area made things easier when they began digging the wells with spades and shovels in October 2016.

None of the women had an experience of digging well in the past but the unfamiliarity with work was never a predicament in their way. Radha, a well digger was employed under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) for the past four years now.

“We never had any experience of digging wells. But our collective spirit helped us learn the trick easily. Now we have warmed up to it and most of us get into 80-feet deep without any fear,” said K Radha reportedly to HT.

ALSO READ: Sweet Paradox: India’s Drought-Stricken Farmers plant the Thirstiest Crop ‘Sugarcane’ 

The president of Pookkottukavu panchayat, K Jayadevan, concludes that women dig wells with the same perfection as that of their professional male counterparts. 

Jayadevan told PTI, “The first well, dug by a group of women, under the scheme looked like a pit. But, as they took up more wells, they have perfected. The latest ones, made by them, are really structural marvels. This transition is the proof of empowerment attained by these village women.”

-Prepared by a Staff writer at Newsgram

 

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Cashless India: E-Governance Transactions in India cross Rs 1,000 crore in 2016 after PM Modi’s Demonetisation move

"Currently, the e-transactions have crossed Rs 1,000 crore, which is 33 per cent increase from last year"

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A man holding credit card (representational Image), Pixabay

New Delhi, December 16, 2016: The total number of e-governance transactions in the country has crossed Rs 1,000 crore this year, the government web portal eTaal said on Friday.

The portal — which disseminates e-transactions statistics of national and state level e-governance projects — said the e-transactions increased by 33 per cent from last year’s Rs 760 crore.

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“Based on the analysis by eTaal, since 2014, there has been a mass increase in the number of e-transactions undertaken by the e-governance projects. The total e-transactions were around Rs 350 crore in 2014, and increased to Rs 760 crore in 2015,” eTaal said.

“Currently, the e-transactions have crossed Rs 1,000 crore, which is 33 per cent increase from last year.”

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The statement said the government web portal — etaal.gov.in — receives transaction statistics from web based applications periodically on near real time basis and presents quick analysis of transaction counts in tabular and graphical form to give quick view of the transactions done by various e-governance projects.

“Achieving Rs 1,000 crore e-transactions in 2016 is an indication of the speed of digital transformation in the government, and also an indication of the adoption of digital medium for transactions by citizens as an easy and convenient method of consuming e-governance services,” said Aruna Sundararajan, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

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The portal takes into account all e-transactions delivering public services from the government to citizens across categories such as agriculture, health, transportation, telecommunication and MNREGA. (IANS)

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Jat agitation and the fallout of Quota system

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Image source: postpickle.com

By Amulya Ganguli 

Just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi described MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) as a living monument to the Congress’s decades-old neglect of rural distress, the quota system is the fallout of, first, a similar prolonged failure in the fields of employment and education and, secondly, of political chicanery.

Haryana is bearing the brunt of these failures because of the violent agitation by the Jat community for reservations.

Originally envisaged as a gesture for a limited period to the Dalits and Adivasis who suffered social and economic deprivation for many centuries, reservations are now regarded as a pathway to easy official jobs and out-of-turn admissions to government schools and colleges by the backward castes.

In view of these advantages, which over-ride merit, the quota system has become a tool in the hands of vote-hungry politicians for buttressing their support bases.

The prime villain in this respect was prime minister V P Singh, who included the backward castes in the quota system in 1990 as a safeguard against being undercut by his rival, Devi Lal.

The Pandora’s box was thus opened with more and more communities seeking the benefits of secure jobs in government offices and seats for their children in public educational institutions.

However, it is the stagnant economy and a moribund educational sector which fuelled the demand for preferential treatment. Had the economy prospered and a greater number of jobs been available, there wouldn’t have been such a rush for reservations.

A buoyant economy would have created an atmosphere of wellness, encouraging greater public and private investment in the educational sector.

But the 2/3 percent Hindu rate of growth under the Congress’s “socialist” regimes till 1991 ensured that the economy limped along, aggravating the unemployment problem and starving the academic sphere of funds.

The post-1991 era of liberalization did not bring about a dramatic improvement in the situation despite the much higher growth rate because the world had entered a period of automated technology where machines did the work of men. Hence the term ‘jobless growth’.

Although more jobs were available than before in the services, real estate and infrastructure sectors, they were not enough to satisfy the growing demand, which was caused not only by a rising population but also the limited availability of agricultural land as the farming families grew in numbers.

Needless to say, it is not only the failures on the economic front which added to the appeal of reservations but also an official inability to enforce the population control programme.

The distortion which V P Singh introduced in the quota system was to include the relatively well-off, though socially backward, communities like the Yadavs of the Hindi heartland who had considerable clout in the countryside.

Now, the Jats who, like the Yadavs, are an influential group in the countryside are also clamoring for quotas in their favor. Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court described them as a “self-proclaimed socially backward class of citizens” while turning down the Congress-led central government’s decision to confer the backward caste status on them before the last general election.

This warping of the system has recently been accentuated by the demand of the Patidars or the Patels of Gujarat for reservations despite being well-placed, both socially and economically.

But the worst example of the skewed nature of reservations was the demand by the Gujjars of north India for relegation from their present backward caste status to that of scheduled tribes or Adivasis.

The reason for this desire to retreat into the company of the Vanvasis or forest-dwellers, as the Adivasis are sometimes called, is the fear of the Gujjars that the entry of Jats into the backward caste category, which has been pending since 1999, will reduce their share of reserved jobs and educational opportunities.

As the judge of a commission which considered their demand said, “earlier the craze was to move forward. Now it is the opposite”.

With even the “forward” groups like the Patels demanding affirmative action in their favour, it has been suggested that the quota system should be opened up to include not only the backward castes but also the economically weaker sections of the “forwards” as well.

However, perhaps the best course may be to abolish the reservations altogether, as Hardik Patel, the leader of the Patel agitators said, and let the various communities compete on the basis of merit and not the accident of birth.

Such a step will mean reviving the original goal of reservations which envisaged doing away with them a decade after their introduction in 1950.

The idea of scrapping the quota system has been floated by both proponents of a market economy, who favour a meritocracy, and social conservatives like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat, who wants a review of the system.

Irrespective of whether Bhagwat’s views reflect the longstanding resentment of the upper castes over the bounties offered to the lower castes by reservations, there is little doubt that the quota system is out of place in an open economy with its emphasis on individual enterprise and not the family background. (IANS)