Rahul Gandhi plunged into his role as Congress general secretary on Wednesday. He used a pro-poor agenda to do it when he, along with a delegation of AICC leaders, sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention to immediately extend the national rural employment guarantee programme to all over the 600 districts of the country. The PM has assured to look into the matter.
The request was made on Singh’s 75th birthday and came in the backdrop of speculation of mid-term Lok Sabha polls. And in what could be his birthday gift to the nation, the PM promised to seriously consider it.
"The Prime Minister assured the Congress party delegation that their request would be given serious consideration. He further assured them that a decision on the matter would be taken shortly by the government," said a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office after the 30-minute meeting. According to the statement, the 11-member delegation underlined that the extension of the programme “would be in the interest of the aam aadmi, would reinforce this government’s commitment to eradicating poverty and be widely welcomed as an important welfare measure."
In a three-page memorandum, which has Rahul as the first signatory, the delegation told the PM that the extension is necessary “to promote sustainable development and livelihood systems for the rural poor across the country.” The Act for the first time gives the rural poor a safety net and legally enforceable right to get minimum employment for 100 days, thereby making a significant difference to their lives while also creating assets. Since the Act itself says the programme would cover the whole country in a phased manner, the call for its immediate extension would double the coverage from the current level of 330 districts to over 600 districts.