After the Union government’s nod, maximum 100-workday condition under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) has been relaxed for roadside tree plantation activities in Himachal Pradesh.
Under the NREGA, 100 days employment guarantee is ensured across the country. However, the Centre approved the state’s proposal to induct the roadside plantation activity under the NREGA and to remove the condition of 100 days.
Now, not only tree plantation but protection and care of planted trees would be done by the NREGA workers. Rural development minister Anil Sharma said it would add to the beauty of Himachal, besides increasing green cover and soil conservation. “100 days were not sufficient for plantation and protection and besides other development works. The government has relaxed the condition of 100 days,” he said.
As far as the wages are concerned, a Union government note read that as and when 100 days were completed by the household, the muster for the rest of the period would be issued as a semi-skilled work and paid from the material component. To curb irregularities, measurement would include number of the plants surviving and number of plants for which the notified tasks have been completed.
For conducting plantation activities, plant material could be procured from nurseries raised by self-help groups and government nurseries. The selection of tree species to be done in by the community in consultation with the local gram panchayat and forest and horticulture departments, considering the suitability and availability of plants for arid and dry region, moist areas, marshy areas, saline areas.
There are a number of roads, including national and state highways, constructed under the Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) and other rural roads, where roadside plantation is being done, but due to limited funds for plantation and maintenance under the respective schemes, most of the roads cannot be covered under plantation. “Roadside plantation will not only create productive assets, but will also check the deterioration of roads and will contribute to the ecological balance and reducing global warming,” a government official said.
To implement the scheme under the NREGA, the public works department and the National Highways Authority of India would be asked to identify the roads. According to government statistics, the state has 11.7 lakh job card holders.