OUR AIM IS EN­SUR­ING BA­SIC AMENI­TIES FOR RU­RAL IN­DIA

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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

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