Road connectivity, boost in jobs, pay in Centre’s rural push
Even as the government’s overall aim is to reduce the dependence of the poor on manual jobs, over the next five years, work under the flagship MGNREGS is expected to involve 1358 crore person days.Updated: Aug 05, 2019, 05:51 IST
The Narendra Modi government’s ambitious five-year plan for rural India may see increased focus on the rural job guarantee scheme, the creation of road networks in strategically important areas, a 50% jump in the number of women’s self-help groups, and emphasis on generating more income for the 67% of India’s population that lives in rural areas according to officials.
Even as the government’s overall aim is to reduce the dependence of the poor on manual jobs, over the next five years, work under the flagship MGNREGS is expected to involve 1358 crore person days. In 2019-20, MGNREGS plans to create 258 crore persondays of work. The government will also try to earmark at least 25% of the total expenditure on rural schemes towards creating individual assets for women and small and marginal farmers to help income generation, officials said . It also wants a 1,000 new clusters built around thematic economic activities and another 1000 model villages, officials added.
This plan has been prepared by the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) on agriculture and rural development. After returning to power in May, PM Narendra Modi formed about a dozen such committees to look into major sectoral issues and vet schemes before the Union cabinet takes the final call.
The panel has also mooted a new stipend policy to attract manual labourers into skill training programmes according to officials. The plan entails the government compensating labourers in terms of daily wages if they enrol in skill training programmes.
“It helps a worker immensely. One, a semi-skilled or skilled worker can get better wages. Two, he or she can work in a sector where there is a greater demand for such trained people,” said a government official who asked not to be named. The plan to compensate labourers for wages lost during training came about after it became clear that loss of wages was one reason why people didn’t enrol in skill training programmes. The CoS has set the objective of training around 4.4 million young people.
The government is also considering setting a target of spending at least 60% of the entire MGNREGS funds on water conservation, agriculture and allied activities every year, keeping in mind the need to improve—if not double—farmer’s incomes. This year, the government has earmarked 75% of its MGNREGS work for water as a part of its efforts to address the water crisis in many parts of the country.
The rural development ministry has also just launched the third phase of its rural roads scheme. By 2024, the scheme will sharpen its focus on creating connectivity in areas affected by Left Wing Extremism and border areas, officials said.
Analysts said this might be tough adding that the ministry has missed its targets for roads in such areas in the past. Over the next five years, the network of Self-Help Groups is also expected to be widened, officials said. India now has 5.2 million women SHGs and the target is to increase this to 7.8 million. “SHGs are a key part of improving rural income. So far, SHGs have accessed ₹3 lakh crore worth of bank loans. Our aim is to mobilize 90 million women into 7.8 million SHGs,” added the official.