OUR AIM IS ENSURING BASIC AMENITIES FOR RURAL INDIA
Union Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh in an interview with Tania Ameer highlighted his vision for the ministry, its achievements and future plans
Union Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh shared his experience in the Ministry of Rural Development, “It has been a challenging job since 68 per cent of our population still resides in rural areas, where they are deprived of the basic amenities. For our Government, ensuring the availability of such amenities for the rural sector is a priority. Such facilities, which are available in towns or cities, should be provided to each villager. However, ensuring their availability is a challenge due to factors like demography and connectivity, amongst others.”
The Ministry has been able to garner several achievements in varied sectors, “Our Ministry is involved in three to four very important programmes. One is the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). There was a lot of speculation that MGNREGA might not get due importance and the funds related to it might be reduced. However, this year we have been allotted the maximum funds under MGNREGA, which speaks of the intent of our Government,” said the Minister.
“We also made it clear on the floor of the House that if more funds are required then MGNREGA would be given due importance. We have made some very basic changes in the implementation of the MGNREGA scheme. Now 60 per cent of the total funds can be utilised for agriculture and allied activities. This is a major change that we have made. To tackle leakages, we have introduced the electronic fund management system. I have issued special instructions to my Ministry that officers from the Rural Development Ministry should be in-charge of one state each, so that they can oversee implementation of this scheme,” he added.
Talking about the Ministry’s initiative to make this implementable, he said, “This is precisely the reason we have designated one officer for each state. Also regarding funds, we have made sure the system is streamlined to a large extent. Funds from the government will go directly to the beneficiaries account. Close monitoring, social auditing and others such steps are being taken to ensure its implementation. We are focused on ensuring that the beneficiaries receive the funds directly.”
Regarding future plans of the Ministry, he said, “There are various plans we have in mind for implementation. One of the flagship programmes we are focusing on is to provide housing for all which would cover 3 crore households.
“Taking ahead Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision, we have launched a scheme for skill development. The Ministry is also focusing on another key programme - the Shyama Prasad Mukherji ‘Rurban’ (rural-urban) Mission, which envisages the strengthening of rural infrastructure. This was earlier known as Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas (PURA). The Shyama Prasad Mukherji ‘Rurban’ (rural-urban) Mission will now be focusing on nearly 300 clusters across the country. In some cases 20 villages might be included in one cluster. In other cases, it might be a cluster of 5-6 villages, depending on the size of the population. These clusters will generate businesses and job opportunities for the youth. All sorts of facilities prevalent in towns and cities will be made available here. There will also be multi-level connectivity for each of these clusters,” he added.
Talking about the Ministry’s initiative the Minister said, “A sum of nearly 5430 crore rupees has been earmarked for the implementation of the Shyama Prasad Mukherji ‘Rurban’ (rural-urban) Mission across India, which has been recently approved by the Cabinet.
Elaborating about the Ministry’s focus on the Swachh Bharat Mission, he said, “Under the Swachh Bharat Mission we have constructed 48 lakh toilets in rural areas in the past six months. We also plan to collaborate with corporate houses as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative. The Ministry has a budget of 2 lakh crore for Swachh Bharat Mission for building 11 crore toilets in 5 years.
Chaudhary Birender Singh, Union Rural Development Minister (centre), Shri Sudarshan Bhagat, MOS Rural Development (right) and Shri J.K. Mohapatra, Secretary Rural Development (left) at a book release function