A few months ago when the Indian Meteorological Department put out its forecast of a possibly deficient monsoon the cat was figuratively set amongst the penguins. There was panic everywhere and the doomsday prophets came out in full force predicting the calamity which was going to <g data-gr-id="26">beset</g> India this year. Thankfully, very little of those predictions have materialised. The monsoon is expected to be normal in June and it will probably end up boosting the sowing of Kharif crops.
However, there are concerns about the pick up in rainfall next month. It was further stated by the IMD that rainfall in the month of July is crucial for achieving good production and will probably pick up. Given this context the NDA government’s recent proposal to extend the number of work entitlement days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme from 100 to 150 in drought-hit districts is indeed a welcome move. The decision to extend the number by a whopping 50 days will see farmers across the country heave a collective sigh of relief. The Narendra Modi government deserves credit for persisting with a series of thoughtful increases in the minimum support prices (MSP). This according to public policy experts may be its most significant reform measure to date.
This move, which was announced recently, will give farmers a reasonable spread to cover at least the expenses they foot on raising their crops, so as to prevent flash sales in financially distressing situations. It will also significantly help in influencing sowing and reaping decisions so that farmers plant crops keeping in view the country’s overall requirements. To cite a pertinent example, by tinkering with the <g data-gr-id="43">MSP</g> the government can proactively encourage farmers to sow and reap a certain crop-say rice. This recent push to synchronously clear bottlenecks in public policy comes after reports had suggested that delayed payments and lower outlays by the government was a clear sign of step-motherly treatment towards the previous UPA government’s flagship scheme. Those fears, however, have been temporarily allayed. However, a lot remains to be done, with increasing number of days in the scheme, the focus should also be on a number of key metrics which will ensure that the leakages and problems with the scheme will be plugged in due time.
Firstly, the quality of assets created under this scheme should be of a higher quality than it was previously. Digging a ditch and then filling it up was all right during the times of Franklin Delano Roosevelt but it’s high time that we graduated towards smarter public policy interventions. Secondly, the implementation of the MNREGA must be linked to the UIDAI’s brainchild the Aadhar card. The payment mechanism which was sluggish in many areas must work diligently to remove middlemen, ghost beneficiaries, delayed payment of wages etc. Payment without work is still practised in many areas. Hopefully, the increased amount of days would alleviate the condition of farmers. The hopes of the rural poor which have been raised by this latest announcement will hopefully be fulfilled in a timely and efficient manner.