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NREGA not a permanent solution: Jairam

Minister of rural development Jairam Ramesh on Thursday said that the Mahatma Gandhi  National Rural Employment Guarantee Act  (MGNREGA) is a not a permanent solution for providing jobs in rural parts of the country, but is a transition programme when there is a need for distress employment.

‘I do not see NREGA as a permanent employment generating programme. It is a transition programme for a 20-25 year period in areas where there is a need for distress employment,’ said Ramesh while inaugurating IDFC Limited’s India Rural Development Report 2013 in New Delhi.

Commenting on the fundamental problems with the programme, the minister said, they stem from the conflicting nature of its three objectives. ‘The objective number one of the NREGA is to providing wages, objective number two is to create government community assets and three is to empower gram panchayats. At no point of times all the three objectives can be achieved,’ said Ramesh.

The rural development minister informed that the  government was also planning to bring in skill development as part of the NREGA project as it is going to launch a scheme in Maoist-affected areas where 50,000 youth would be provided skills as well as jobs.

Dwelling on the positive aspects of the programme, the minister said this has helped in significantly reducing the distress migration from states such as Bihar and Odisha to Punjab and Haryana and this has been felt by the Railways as not many such expected passengers have travelled between the two places. The minister said the government will be bringing out changes in the implementation of the UPA flagship scheme NREGA by focusing on creation of durable community assets under the programme.

The report also points out the urban rural inequality has worsened over the time. ‘The urban rural MPCE ratio increase from around 1.5 in the  early 1980 to 1.7 in the late 1990, it subsequently rose to 2.0 by 2010. If such tendencies persist, India may face the risk of raising social distress,’ the report points out.

The IDFC report however, has been critical of the rural infrastructure and in particular the access to drinking water and housing to Scheduled Tribes. ‘One reason is that they live in remote areas and in hamlets that may not even be covered under several government schemes. Another is that many government schemes are target drive and addressing more densely populated areas makes meeting targets easier,’ states the report.
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