Millennium Post

Govt tries to strengthen social security net for rural India

In an attempt to strengthen social safety nets in rural India, union finance minister Arun Jaitley has raised the corpus of Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) with an additional Rs 5,000 crore from the target given in the Interim Budget to Rs 25,000 crore in the current financial year. RIDF is operated by NABARD which helps in creation of infrastructure in agriculture and rural sectors across the country.

Worried over downfall in long term investment credit in agriculture as compared to short term crop loan, the finance minister has proposed to set up ‘Long Term Rural Credit Fund’ in NABARD for the purpose of providing refinance support to Cooperative Banks and Regional Rural Banks with an initial corpus of Rs 5,000 crore. In the context of widely applauded initiative taken by the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), the finance minister said, ‘The PMGSY was a boon for the people of India because of its access to the rural population. To make it more effective I propose to provide a sum of Rs 14,389 crore.’

The NDA budget also brings some good news for the people under Ajeevika, the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM). Earlier, under the mission, women SHGs were provided bank loans at 4 per cent on prompt repayment in 150 districts and at 7 per cent in all other districts. But, now the government has proposed to extend the provision of bank loan for women SHGs at 4 per cent in another 100 districts. Jaitley said, ‘I also propose to set up a — Start Up Village Entrepreneurship Programme – to encourage rural youth to take up local entrepreneurship programmes. I am providing an initial sum of Rs 100 crore for this.’

Sensing the need to revamp the Rural Housing Scheme (RHS), which has benefited a large percentage of rural population who have availed credit through Rural Housing Fund (RHF), Jaitley has increased the allocations for the year 2014-15 to Rs 8,000 crore for National Housing Bank.
The budget has also reflected government’s priority to provide clean drinking water for the people living in India. To serve flouride, arsenic and manmade contaminations due to untreated sewage water to the people, the finance minister has earmarked Rs 3,600 crore under National Rural Drinking Water Programme. This fund will be utilised in approximately 20,000 habitations across the country, which is affected with arsenic, fluoride, toxic elements, pesticides, fertilizers through community water purification plants in next three years.

In keeping with the government’s focus on improving affordable healthcare and to augment the transfer of technology for better healthcare facilities in rural India, 15 Model Rural Health Research will be set up in the states, which shall take up research on local health issues concerning rural population.

On MGNREGA, the finance minister claimed that the government is committed to provide 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,’ he said.

While focusing on Watershed Development, he said, ‘To give an added momentum to watershed development, I would like to propose a new programme called ‘Neeranchal’ with an initial outlay of Rs 2,142 crore in the current financial year.’

In the context Backward Region Grant Fund, he said, ‘It is being implemented in 272 backward districts in 27 states in India. To fill up the critical gaps in development of basic infrastructure facilities and for capacity building of Panchayats and Gram Sabhas in backward areas, we have restructured the BRGF to ensure that backward sub-districts units within states receive adequate support.’
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