The ministry of agriculture wants the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) works suspended during the peak farming seasons of sowing, transplantation and harvesting.
In a letter to the rural development ministry, the farm ministry said with the rural labour opting for NREGA works, it has affected farming in many parts of the country.
“Our assessment is based on field visits, inputs from farmers and reports from the states, which shows that NREGA has led to a shortage of farm labour in many states,” PK Basu, secretary, agriculture, told HT.
According to officials, from the time NREGA came into force, the cost of agriculture labour has gone up from 16 to 43% (varying according to soils and crops).
To mitigate the crisis, the farm ministry among other suggestions has requested suspension of the NREGA works during high-crop activity letting the rural labour engage in sowing, transplantation activities.
Though the rural ministry received such complaints from various quarters including states like Andhra Pradesh, the concern from the nodal ministry for farming assumes importance; more so at a time when the new rural development minister Jairam Ramesh took charge.
Officials in rural department said they are putting up the letter to the minister for his view. “Their concern of shortage might be true in some pockets. Anyway, we would try to find a solution within NREGA framework,” rural secretary BK Sinha said.
Earlier reports show that in states like Punjab and Haryana, labour costs went up manifold and farming becoming non-viable as migrant labour from UP and Bihar stopped coming owing to the availability of NREGA works in their villages. Though NREGA is devised to provide guaranteed wage employment during lean agriculture seasons, works are taken up at village level based on local needs and influences. As there is a provision of a minimum 100 days employment in the act, authorities cannot deny work when demanded, officials said.
“Though it is not as much a problem in the dry land areas, it is a serious concern in richly irrigated areas where NREGA works are coming in way of crop work,” Chengal Reddy, secretary general, Consortium of Indian Farmers said. Reddy hailing from Andhra Pradesh says that farm wages have gone up to Rs400 in the peak season.
There is a serious need to correct the Act for development of agriculture sector in the country. NREGA should be utilised for crop activities also, Reddy demands.
In a letter to the rural development ministry, the farm ministry said with the rural labour opting for NREGA works, it has affected farming in many parts of the country
From the time NREGA came into force, the cost of agriculture labour has gone up from 16 to 43%
As there is a provision of a minimum 100 days employment in the act, authorities cannot deny work when demanded, officials said.