The Centre has clarified that forestry and horticulture are permissible under the MGNREGA scheme. The statement comes as a reply to the Commissioner MP State Employment Guarantee Council who had stopped MGNREGS work in all districts in forestry and horticulture plantations.
Commissioner, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) Raghuraj Rajendran had instructed collectors of all districts not to carry out any work related to forestry and horticulture under MGNREGS as these involve material costs, which he claimed, are not allowed under the Act.
Earlier, additional chief secretary Aruna Sharma and principal secretary horticulture Pravir Krishn had issued joint order to MGNREGS commissioner asking him to carry out horticulture and sericulture activities under the scheme which would uplift economically weaker sections, generate employment and strengthen such sectors in the state.
Turning down the orders, Rajendran stopped the approved works under horticulture and forestry plantation.
His circular said that ‘agriculture operations of any nature are not permitted to be taken up under MGNREGS for food grain crop, vegetables, floriculture etc. The material cost for these inputs (seeds, fertilisers, pesticide etc) would also not be covered under MNNREGA.’
The circular states that expenditure on forestry and horticulture activities is included in the negative list of MGNREGA scheme and recovery would be done from the officials responsible for approval of such work.
Deputy director and state nodal officer for MGNREGA, MPS Bundela objected to commissioner’s circular. Bundela had also threatened to commit suicide if these works were not started.
On being contacted Rajendran told HT, “I have received an unofficial copy of the letter but I cannot comment until I get an official copy.”
Bundela said that under MGNREGA only Rs 1,200 crore had been spent out of the total Rs 6,000 crore. An additional Rs 1,500 crore had been allocated recently to start relief works for drought-hit farmers. If work does not start on time the budget for such works under the scheme may lapse.