Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar’s suggestion to ban Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) during farming season may not get government’s approval.
Instead, the MGNREGA guidelines may be amended to increasing synergy between the world’s biggest social security scheme and agriculture sector to improve production. A set of green methodologies could be included in works allowed under the scheme.
Pawar had written to Prime Minister on November 28 seeking the ban. PM Manmohan Singh sought comments of rural development minister Jairam Ramesh.
The minister, in his reply to PM, has relied on Planning Commission member Mihir Shah’s suggestions on improving synergy to say that MGNREGA can lead to improvement in agriculture productivity and Pawar’s demand was violative of MGNREGA Act.
The law is based on the principle of providing work on demand. So, if during the agriculture season there is no demand, no work could be provided.
Ramesh had constituted a committee under Shah to revise MGNREGA guidelines to allow the largest number of works which will help strengthen the synergy between MGNREGA and agriculture without compromising on fundamental features of the Act.
Shah committee had submitted a list of 11 types of new works that can be included in MGNREGA to improve production in addition to existing seven. The new blue-print on allowing job under MGNREGA saying works such as soil conservation, enriched compost production through bio-waste recycling, vermin-compost and vermin-wash should be allowed.
It also talks about allowing production of liquid manures and decentralized production of bio-pesticides such as neem kernel extract or other neem based extractions. Adding another green aspect to agriculture through MGNREGA includes afforestation on common and individual lands and construction of night shelter for poultry, birds and small ruminants.
The list also allowing works that can reduce damage of agriculture produce and provide better facilities for animals used in agriculture sector.
“MGNREGA is contributing to raising income of farmers through improved agriculture productivity, and also reducing the need for small and marginal farmers to continue to work on MGNREGA sites,” Ramesh told the PM, in his letter.