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Updated: February 23, 2012 20:23 IST

Farmer friendly MGNREGS from April 1

K. Balchand
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Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh addressing the media on the report of the committee for Revision of MGNREGA. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh addressing the media on the report of the committee for Revision of MGNREGA. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Most of the new works approved relate to agriculture

Even while turning down demands for a moratorium on MGNREGS jobs during the agricultural season, the Centre on Wednesday approved new works that aim at boosting the farm sector.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh released here a report, authored by Planning Commission member Mihir Shah, suggesting revision of the guidelines to strengthen the job entitlement programme that has run into rough weather of late.

The new avatar of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, coming into existence on April 1, will allow farmers who qualify for support under MGNREGS to hire hands for eight man-days per acre for transplantation and for another four man-days at two intervals for weeding.

Through this provision the Centre seeks to solve the problem of small and marginal farmers who not only find it difficult to get hands but also pay higher wages demanded by workers. They are unable to match the wages paid under MGNREGS. Now the government will pay for those working on agricultural land owned by eligible farmers.

Both Mr. Ramesh and the Planning Commission member said the Shah-led committee had received several petitions to freeze the scheme during the agricultural season but these were turned down and instead it was decided to accept the proposal to converge MGNREGS activities with farm work.

Out of the 30 new works approved, almost 90 per cent were agriculture related. Mr. Ramesh stressed that 75 per cent of employment was provided under MGNREGS outside the agricultural season and hence the anxiety in some quarters was unfounded.

However, among others, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh complaining that jobs under MGNREGS hit agricultural activities.

In another development, to safeguard the interests of manual labour, receipt of application has been made mandatory and inability to provide job would automatically generate an unemployment allowance under the electronic system to be managed by the States. Refusal by authorities to accept application for jobs has been made punishable.

The States will have to approve the annual plan, for works to be taken up, at the gram sabhas to be held on August 15, in a bid to prevent distress migration. The States have been permitted to make an interim 75 per cent wage payment if delay is unavoidable.

To eliminate misuse of funds, any panchayat or MGNREGS functionary found in possession of job cards will be hauled up.

Problem: I am worried that what the government has proposed may turn a nightmare for farmers within a few months after this scheme is implemented. As the government proposes to pay the wages of workers with limitations on number of man-days, the actual labour requirement is far higher than it is provided in the proposed legislation. Since government is providing higher wages, surely the farmer will be compelled to shell out higher wages (for employing labourers after the limit provided in the MNREGS is crossed) as no labourer will be willing to work for anything less than what he gets in the MNREGS.

Possible solution: Rather than providing full share of wages and limiting the number of man-days, the government could offer to pay a certain part of wages if the labour is related to agriculture. For example, say MNREGS is paying 125/day, the sharing basis between farmer and government could be in the ratio of 50:50 or 55:45 or 60:40. This kind of proposal offers more flexibility.

from:  Vishal Hanji
Posted on: Mar 1, 2012 at 14:20 IST

The new scheme on the surface of it may look good. However when small farmers have to employ these so called labour what sort of paperwork should they have and since farm work is dependent on the weather how will a farmer manage between hiring this labour when he or she needs it not when they become avialable after the contractor who has hired them for longer term decides. Why not hire these people to cleanup India as this has huge impact on hygiene and health of rural and urban India. why not get them to clean up roadsides, gutters of plastic and rubbish which when eaten by cows is killing them. Why create this pseudowelfare system while there are plenty of jobs to be done in factories etc however the factory owners cant hire people. This is distorting the job market and creating artifical situation and allowing govt to go scott free. If the govt had created proper rural jobs by agri growth why this would be needed. This is pulling the wool over eyes of people.

from:  S V Nagapppa
Posted on: Feb 24, 2012 at 07:39 IST

Unlike most of the Rural Development Programmes the new awatar of MGNREGA sounds very good in the planning level. But when we look at the implementation of MGNREGA or any other Rural Development Programmes we hardly see any visible changes in the grass root level due to those programmes or schemes. Hence one factor where we need to focus is awareness among the people about MGNREGA. The government should take certain effective step to create awareness among the common people about MGNREGA so that implementation of MGNREGA will not fall in the hand of elite group.

from:  Likhak
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 13:46 IST

It is good that we see a minister starts to think about a Govt. scheme
which is damaging the agriculture activities in the country as a whole
and which is destroying the work ethics of the hard working people,we
once used to be.The idea he is planning now will do more damage and
corruption than the current one.Instead he can think about the people
who are supposed to be benefitted by MNREGS.This MNREGS should be
restricted to include the landless,homeless labours of any place
village/towns only.The inclusion of so called small,or so farmers with
lands and own farms must be removed.Normally the small farmers work in
their own farm
and do not need MNREGS.Please think about it.

from:  ipsamy
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 13:10 IST

Mgnrega or Marega ..the white elephant of our times as the CBPO of a quaint Malgudi day block in the state of Jharkhand I feel that more than the objectives and aims the said flagship programe of the UPA dispensation is inherently flaweed and a great misnomer.Though being part of the bureaucracy this is my personal opinion and perspectives and the sequence of events and daily darwanian survival of my local populance makes me harbour this very radical stand .The prime imperative impetus is on expenditure rather than on quality asset creation and their conservation and upkeep .What lies beneath is a genesis of a Frankenstein monster a hydra headed one where the checks and balnces have become an end in themselves.Its high time that CBPO,s working are called by our very vocal union rural developement minister to devise ways to check this jaggernaut programe on air..So help us GOD ...amen!

from:  Vishal Deep Khalkho J.A.S
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 22:43 IST

The inclusion of small and marginal farmers is a welcome step,the farmwork related with crop husbandry will augment agriculture production as well as farmers' income,it should be accorded priority.Eco conservation activity should be monitored by professionals as it require specialized skill.suspension of MNREGA in busy season hardly yield any results as evidenced by statistics but wage rate should be linked with consumer price index.

from:  sudhir panwar
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 21:26 IST

Even at the early stages, the Hindu brought out a telling pictorial comment about
MNRGEA being a builders of assets that were bound to vanish into thin air. I see nothing
contrary to each other in minimum wage, guaranteed earning and durable assets.
Naturally, that lays stress on agricultural operations.

In that context, Sharad Pawar’s demand that at least three months should be considered
as an off-duration for MNREGA so that agriculture labourers are available for farming
looks odd, though it could hide a policy aberration. Mr.Ramesh should look into it with

from:  Soundararajan Srinivasa
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 21:10 IST

So far around 70 per cent expenditure in MNREGA has been in the field of water. Here is how as explained by the panchayat here:
The Taluk Officials told them everything has to be around water. So the three works done by them have been
1) Clearing the sides of road (panchayat and municipality tasks) of brush, weeds and rubbish. Digging a foot deep channel. This trash is piled between this gutter and road so that when it rains it slides back or on to the road damaging it. Here gutter means water.
2) Clearing the canal in January's when it is still slushy. Come monsoon the undergrowth in the canal and embankments have come back. Done selectively. Here slush means water.
3) Scraping the weeds around coconut trees of selective farmers, so that water will hold when irrigated by hand. Done in monsoon when irrigation is not required. Here monsoon must mean water.

Selectivity in 2 and 3 above implies, complacent voters against the panchayat member are disregarded.

from:  Joseph George
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 20:48 IST
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