Amid differences between Rural Development and Agriculture ministries over implementation of works under rural job scheme, a parliamentary panel has said that improper planning of jobs during farm season was causing labour availability problem in the key sector.

“... Lack of proper planning of works under MNREGA without keeping in view of local agriculture practice is causing the problem of labour availability in agriculture sector,” Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development said in its latest report.

Noting that agriculture is the “backbone” of the country’s rural economy, the panel chaired by senior MP Sumitra Mahajan said labour activity in the farm sector cannot be ignored as it may lead to shortfall in food production.

“Further, aim of MNREGA is not to substitute agriculture labour but to provide additional income support to people or household in rural areas,” said the Committee in its 42nd report tabled in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

The panel suggested that the problem could only be solved if there is follow up of guidelines about preparation of District Perspective Planning by District Planning Committees and annual planning by Gram Sabha clearly indicating works availability in a year while taking care of local agricultural practices.

“It would enable workers in rural areas to avail employment opportunity under MNREGA in non-agricultural season while simultaneously ensuring labour availability for agriculture,” the report said.

The panel’s views assume significance in the wake of allegations by Agriculture Ministry headed by Sharad Pawar that MNREGA operations have had an adverse effect on the availability of labourers for farm operations.

However, Rural Development Ministry has countered this view, citing an analysis of mandays generated by MNREGA, which shows that most of the employment generated in 2010-11 was during the lean farm season.

The Rural Development Ministry, headed by Jairam Ramesh, has also informed the parliamentary panel that restricting the MNREGA work to any particular season would be against the spirit of the Act which provides 100 days guaranteed employment in a financial year for registered households.