Agriculture Scientist, M.S.Swaminathan, on Tuesday came down heavily on proposals to import foodgrains to tide over the shortage due to the poor monsoon this year and said that if only the Government had taken adequate measures to modernize foodgrain storage system, such an eventuality would not have arisen.

``The importers lobby would always be there to make profit out of poverty. But, the Government needs to take adequate steps to improve the infrastructure for storing foodgrains. We should not allow monkeys and rats to eat away our produce’’.

Delivering a lecture on `NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) and ecological security’, he said there was also a need for greater convergence between the Ministry of Rural Development, which is in charge of implementing the NREGA Scheme, and other Ministries such as Water Resources Development at the grass root level to make it more effective.

``There is fortunately a convergence between the Rural Development Ministry and other Ministries at the top level, but it needs to percolate down to the ground, where it has to be actually implemented’’.

Hailing NREGA has a `quantum jump’ in promoting public participation, Dr. Swaminathan emphasized the need to create links between the scheme and other developmental activities including public health, safe drinking water and literacy programme and the need to promote skilled labour.

``The law provides for unskilled work only. But, unfortunately, there is a rethinking to include skilled work also. This is a welcome move. NREGA should be used to promote human dignity, instead of adopting a patronizing attitude. The people are intelligent and highly creative. We need to encourage their creativity by promoting a participatory approach’’.

In this context, he suggested institution of awards to recognize groups of beneficiaries who turn out best outcomes in terms of watershed development under the Scheme. ``That will infuse a sense of social prestige among the participants and they would willingly put their best foot forward’’.

Among other things, he said, the NREGA scheme could be used to set up mini agrometeorological stations at the village level, with basic tools such as rain guage, and wind speed and direction monitors through community participation and to set up on-farm ponds to harvest rain water.

The lecture organized by the Society for Promotion of Wastelands Development in honour of its former Chairperson, Lovraj Kumar.