The UPA government that has been facing brickbats from the opposition parties has got a compliment from BJP leader L K Advani for its flagship programme, MGNREGA, which he said has helped empower rural people and revive economic growth.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), enacted in August 2005, has been touted as a flagship programme by the UPA government.

Mr. Advani said the scheme is the largest cash for work programme in the world and responds to the needs of 53 million poor rural households by ensuring 100 days employment to them per year with at least 50 per cent of the work reserved for women.

“This programme has helped break down social inequalities, empower rural people, build up rural infrastructure and revive economic growth,” Mr. Advani said during his address on ‘Social Development’ at the General Debate in the Third Committee, which focuses on social, humanitarian and cultural affairs, at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly yesterday.

Mr. Advani is part of a group of visiting Indian Parliamentarians who will be participating in various sessions of the General Assembly. He listed efforts made by India to help women and vulnerable groups, particularly in rural areas, initiatives in the field of education, health interventions and programmes to assist persons with disabilities.

He said in India, achieving inclusive growth underpinned by empowerment of people, especially women, good governance, and investments in social sectors, education and health, skills training, affordable housing, are a major focus.

Given that 65 per cent of India’s population lives in rural areas, special emphasis have been placed on rural development initiatives, he added.

Mr. Advani said initiatives in the field of education have led to India attaining nearly full enrolment in primary grades of schooling for boys and girls and narrowing of gender gaps in middle and higher education. Health interventions have led to increased life expectancy, increased rates of immunisation of children, and substantial decline in infant and maternal mortality rates.

“Our targets for economic growth are anchored in measurable performance indices relating to poverty, education, health, women and children. These targets, disaggregated state-wise which implement most programmes, have helped monitor, assess and improve them,” he said.

Pointing out that India has a comprehensive legal framework to assist persons with disabilities, Mr. Advani said the country seeks to create an enabling environment that provides them with equal opportunities, protection of their rights and full participation in society, including in the areas of education and employment.

India, which was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007, has around 100 million people over the age of 60. “We believe that the elderly can contribute beyond retirement to their place of work and their communities,” he said adding that India has taken a number of steps to ensure that older persons live a life of dignity.

These measures include supplementing the care provided by the family, providing adequate healthcare facility, setting up old age homes, promoting research and training facilities to train geriatric care givers and providing protection including legal services.

“Comprehensive and inclusive social development is essential for fostering stable, harmonious, peaceful and just societies and bringing about broad-based improvement in the quality of life of all people,” he said.

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