The 100-days employment guarantee scheme was Tuesday expanded to include 30 new works related to agriculture, watershed, livestock, fisheries, flood management and irrigation and aligned with a national sanitation campaign.
"It is the first time since the launch of the scheme (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) that 30 new works have been added in its schedule... Today we can say MGNREGA 2.0 has started," rural development minister Jairam Ramesh told reporters in New Delhi.
He said his ministry had sought to add as many agriculture-related works to MGNREGA as possible.
He had, earlier in the day, told parliament about the new permissible works.
The new norms provided that Rs.4,500 could be contributed as labour component from MGNREGA towards construction of toilets under Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), Ramesh said. He said quality toilets would be constructed in rural areas for Rs.9,900.
On queries about suggestions that part of payment under MGNREGA should be made in food grains, Ramesh said the matter "was under consideration at the highest level".
However, he did not favour the suggestion and said that many assets under the food-for-work programme were "mythical assets".
He said the suggestion for making part of MGNREGA payment in food grains had the backing of the food ministry due to problems of adequate storage and costs incurred in storage.
The focus of the expanded MGNREGA would be in blocks with sizeable population of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and those which had been getting Rs.12-crore fund in a year under the scheme, said Mihir Shah, a member of the Planning Commission.
Such blocks would be provided technical assistance for success of expanded MGNREGA, he said.
The government wanted to make MGNREA a productivity-enhancing instrument which led to an increase in agricultural output, he added.
Ramesh said panchayats would decide the priority of works in gram sabha meetings with a stipulation that overall labour to material ratio would be 60:40.
Panchayats should open a separate account for MGNREGA as they received sizeable funds under the scheme every year, he said.
Kerala, Bihar, Sikkim, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan had made suggestions in the task undertaken by the ministry to extend the list of works, he said.