He took the shortest step to greet his political bosses — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi — at the Ashok Hall on Tuesday. But Jairam Ramesh’s elaborate strategy is already in place for his new assignment in rural development ministry.
The newly-appointed cabinet minister told Hindustan Times, “Rural development has to play much more extensive role in the Naxal-strategy of the government. We have to see how its programmes can be used to end the alienation of the local people in these areas.”
National rural livelihood missions — the self-employment generation programme — will be a focus area of Ramesh for this purpose."I want to give it an anchor role. It is to the second UPA what NREGA was to the first UPA. My target would be to ensure at 50% of rural women become self-help group members," says Ramesh, who has no regret of leaving the environment and forest ministry and confessed that he wanted a shift to rural development .
Ramesh wants to give more attention to the land resources department as “its impact on poverty is very significant.”
At the same time, “with the advent of modern technology” the tech-savvy minister wants to take a different at the ministry that deals with rural India.
In fact, Ramesh was the only minister the PM was specifically asked about after the swearing-in ceremony.
When asked if Ramesh was removed because he was obstructing projects, the prime minister said, “Jairam is given more extensive responsibilities. I am sure his experience will be better utilised in this portfolio.”
Ramesh comes to rural development ministry at a time when the UPA government has extended its integrated action plan from 60 to 78 Naxal-affected districts.
He will also head a ministry that gets second highest budgetary resources after defence but faces questions about pilferage and implementation of flagship programmes.
“It’s a huge responsibility. There is a lot of cynicism about what we are getting from the rural development programmes, how it is actually benefiting people,” Ramesh said.