The rural employment guarantee act has lessened people’s migration from villages to cities for work and the government would work towards strengthening the scheme, including ensuring more transparency, Rural Development Minister Birender Singh said .
“Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is a scheme which will be strengthened. We will not do anything to dilute it,” Birender Singh said at a function to mark the completion of 10 years of the flagship programme on Feb 2, 2015.
The scheme, which provides 100 days of guaranteed work to rural poor, was launched by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government during its first term to tremendous electoral advantage.
Singh said that for his ministry, the biggest job of MGNREGA is to generate employment among the rural poor. “Assets which are created are useful for the villages but it comes second in the list of priorities after employment generation.”
Asserting that his ministry wants to focus on convergence of employment guarantee and asset creation, the minister said that assets thus created should have a durability of 60-70 years and not just three to four years.
He promised to allocate the maximum funds for the programme and blamed the state governments for delay in payment to beneficiaries.
Economists and activists alike had protested the government’s reported move to dilute the programme last year. But the Narendra Modi government had clarified in parliament that there would be no whittling down of funds for the programme.
Birender Singh also stressed on the recent initiatives taken by the ministry to address issues around transparency and accountability in MGNREGA like some forward looking IT-based initiatives like notification of MGNREGA under Direct Benefit Transfer and mobile monitoring systems.
“The social audit systems have also been strengthened,” he said adding MGNREGA is also supporting the other flagship programmes like Swachh Bharat Mission through the construction of toilets.
Over the last year, the ministry has streamlined the scheme to make it more relevant to the local needs and demands of the beneficiaries with greater focus on backward areas.
The ministry also proposes to undertake programmes to provide skills to MGNREGA workers.