‘Rural jobs scheme should have off period during agriculture season’

March 20th, 2012 - 12:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, March 20 (IANS) States should be allowed to declare an off period for the rural jobs scheme MGNREGA during peak agricultural season, says Sumitra Mahajan, chief of a parliamentary panel on rural development.

She also believes extending the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to urban areas - as suggested by the Economic Survey last week - is not practicable unless the scheme is made to include semi-skilled work apart from manual labour.

“During peak agricultural season, workers have the option to work in the fields, but not when there is a dry spell. They should be able to find work under MGNREGA when they lack options,” Mahajan, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Indore, told IANS in an interview.

The Economic Survey said there was need to ensure that implementation of MGNREGA does not result in shortage of labour during peak agricultural season for which Panchayati Raj institutions and gram sabhas need to be adequately sensitised.

MGNREGA norms guarantee 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

Mahajan said the parliamentary standing committee on rural development that she heads had received suggestions about the need for states to have the option to decide an “off-period” for MGNREGA. She said it was essential to ensure that rural families find work under MGNREGA when they do not have other options, such as work in agricultral fields, as the norms guarantee wage employment for 100 days only.

The Economic Survey for 2011-12, presented by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in parliament last week, also suggested extending MGNREGA to urban areas and building of permanent assets under the programme.

But Mahajan said: “It will not be practical without making changes in the rules. Semi-skilled work should be included…MGNREGA does not lead to creation of assets.”

Mahajan termed as “low” average employment under MGNREGA of 47 persondays per household in 2010-11 and said more awareness should be created about the scheme.

Asked about an Rs.8,000 crore hike in allocation for rural development and social sectors in the 2012-13 budget, she said the committee will look into the proposals. However, she added the panel was “not satisfied” with last year’s government spending for the rural areas.

Mukherjee, in his budget presented March 16, hiked allocation for rural development including drinking water, sanitation and social welfare from Rs.91,000 crore in 2011-12 to nearly Rs.99,000 crore.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at prashant.s@ians.in)

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