Cen­tre to Em­ploy NREGS to Fight Drought

Puts drought-proof­ing work on mis­sion mode & sets June dead­line for states un­der the jobs scheme to en­sure rain­fall is used for wa­ter har­vest­ing; funds al­lo­cated to pro­gramme to be pri­ori­tised for ben­e­fit of af­fected states

The Economic Times - - Economy: Macro, Micro & More - Ruchika.Chi­tra­van­shi @times­group.com

New Delhi: The govern­ment has put drought-proof­ing work by states on mis­sion mode and set a dead­line for June un­der the Na­tional Ru­ral Em­ploy­ment Guar­an­tee pro­gramme to en­sure mon­soon rain­fall is used for wa­ter har­vest­ing.

Of­fi­cials said funds al­lo­cated to the flag­ship ru­ral jobs pro­gramme will be pri­ori­tised for the ben­e­fit of drought-hit states. Drought man­age­ment is a state sub­ject, but in an ob­ser­va­tion on Tues­day the Supreme Court said that the Cen­tral govern­ment’s re­spon­si­bil­ity does not end with pro­vid­ing funds. “We want to cover as much ground as pos­si­ble be­fore the mon­soon sea­son starts…This year, we are be­ing very prompt with our pay­ments from the be­gin­ning of the year to en­cour­age states to take up more work,” said a se­nior govern­ment of­fi­cial, who did not wish to be iden­ti­fied. The weather de­part­ment has pre­dicted a nor­mal mon­soon rain­fall this year, but vast swathes of the country are reel­ing un­der se­vere wa­ter short­age af­ter two years of be­low-av­er­age mon­soon. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi on Thurs­day said he was aware that the country is faced with a drought sit­u­a­tion and acute short­age of wa­ter, but said a good mon­soon is ex­pected this year.

“Can I use the re­main­der of the time from April to June to use NREGA funds in driv­ing a cam­paign for wa­ter con­ser­va­tion? Through de­silt­ing, cre­ation of farm ponds, clean­ing up canals, I can use all the avail­able re­sources to­wards wa­ter con­ser­va­tion so that we can sur­vive even if we do not get ad­e­quate rains,” Modi said, in his ad­dress at the 10th Civil Ser­vices Day awards cer­e­mony. As per govern­ment data, 256 dis­tricts across In­dia are in the grip of drought, ac­count­ing for about 33 crore peo­ple or a quar­ter of the country’s pop­u­la­tion. The govern­ment has swiftly dis­bursed more than .₹ 12,000 crore from its to­tal al­lo­ca­tion of .₹ 38,500 crore in pend­ing pay­ments to states since the Supreme Court rap.

The ru­ral de­vel­op­ment min­istry has re­leased an ad­di­tional tranche of funds to the tune of .₹ 19,000 crore for May and June in ad­vance pay­ments to states, so that wa­ter con­ser­va­tion works do not get stuck for paucity of funds. About 55% of the to­tal bud­get al­lo­ca­tion has al­ready been trans­ferred to the states now, of­fi­cials said.

A de­tailed state-wise plan to build farm ponds and ver­mi­com­post­ing units has been drawn up for im­ple­men­ta­tion in the cur­rent fis­cal. The tar­get is to add 877,000 farm ponds and wells, and a mil­lion ver­mi­com­post­ing farms by the end of this year.

The Cen­tre has asked states in­clud­ing Ut­tar Pradesh, Bi­har, Jhark­hand and Ra­jasthan to ramp up their ru­ral de­vel­op­ment plan and take up more works un­der NREGA.“While al­lo­ca­tion to states is as per de­mand we have strate­gised in ad­vance this year to es­ti­mate how much each state needs to spend,” the of­fi­cial said. The govern­ment hopes to gen­er­ate 30-40% of the to­tal labour per­son days for 2016-17 by June. De­mand for work is ex­pected to fall if the mon­soon rain­fall is good this year.

In 2015-16 the per­son-day gen­er­a­tion of work un­der the scheme was the high­est in the sec­ond quar­ter at 45.88 crore, and even higher in the third quar­ter, at 46.2 crore, than it has been in the past five years mainly due to poor mon­soon.

In 2013, the govern­ment had in­creased the guar­an­teed num­ber of days of work un­der NREGA from 100 days to 150. How­ever, this has not trans­lated into gen­er­a­tion of work at the ground level due to lack of funds and de­lay in pay­ments. NREGA is be­set by de­layed pay­ments, with 54% ben­e­fi­cia­ries fac­ing this prob­lem.

Af­ter SC rap, the Cen­tre has dis­bursed over 12,000 cr from to­tal al­lo­ca­tion of 38,500 cr in pend­ing pay­ments to the states

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