Four years after it extended MGNREGA to the entire country, the Centre is now setting in place a structure to maximise benefits of the scheme in areas that the programme was first started in — drought prone, backward regions and those with large concentration of Dalits and tribals.
Facilitation teams will be formed in blocks where SC, ST form 30% of the population and where the annual MGNREGA expenditure was more than R12 crore in any year since the scheme was launched in 2006.
There are more than 1,000 such blocks in the category.Apart from additional rozgar sahayaks, dedicated officials to attend to tribals, works will be designed around regeneration of plant species providing minor forest produce (kusum, ber, kovelm arjuna), on which tribals are dependent.
“The observation is that where demand is high, the capacities of machinery were low. The new structures would answer that deficit,” Mihir Shah, planning commission member, told HT.
Each block will be divided into three village development clusters covering 15,000 job cards.
Each team comprising engineer, social mobiliser and hydro-geologist will be assigned to a cluster of gram panchayats ensuring implementation of the job scheme.
According to new guidelines — recommendations of a committee under Shah — more than one rozgar sahayak will be deployed in panchayats with high labour potential, with scattered habitations and in tribal areas. State governments have to appoint a coordinator (vulnerable groups) to cater to requirements of special categories.
The structure will be in place within six months. Human resource costs could be met from funds the rural development ministry is transferring to the panchayati raj ministry, Shah said.
While the scheme was extended to all districts in the run up to 2009 elections, the fresh move — a bid to recreate the flagship scheme’s appeal in rural belts — comes two years ahead of the next general elections. But this comes at a time when demand for work under MGNREGA is falling at national level.
Compared to 5.5 crore households in the previous year, the scheme provided employment to five crore (provisional) households in 2011-12 — a drop of over five million.