Uncertainty prevails on whether the Centre will clear the proposal mooted by Andhra Pradesh and a few other States to link the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) to farming operations.

Andhra Pradesh, which has emerged as a role-model in the country in implementing NREGS, joined other States in requesting the Centre to dovetail the NREGS with operations like developing the holdings of individual farmers in villages by earth works and sowing of crops.

While pressure is being mounted on the Centre to introduce a Bill in Parliament to give effect to the move, Dalit organisations and other weaker sections are up in arms against the proposal, dubbing the measure as pro-landed gentry. Any implementation of the proposal will strengthen or bring back the feudal system with Dalits being made to work under landed people at the government’s cost.

Farmers’ organisations contend that it will be only marginal farmers who will benefit out of the link-up and not the landed people as alleged. They say extension of NREGS to farming operations will increase productivity of individual fields, boosting overall food-grain production.

Minister for Rural Development D. Manikya Varaprasada Rao, a Dalit leader, reportedly felt inconvenient when Andhra Pradesh sought introduction of the measure on the ground that Dalits and other weak sections would not gain out of this as they do not own any land.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Rao, however, denied having opposed the move and vowed to ensure its effective implementation if cleared by the Centre.

Pending Centre’s nod, NREGS is being utilised to create public assets only such as bunds for tanks and village approach roads.

The Minister says this summer, migration of over 30,000 people each from Mahabubnagar, Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Karimnagar and Nizamabad districts to cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad in search of gainful employment has stopped. “They remained at their villages as work is being provided at the enhanced wage of Rs.149 a day.

Meanwhile, the Centre ordered release of Rs.2,100 crore to Andhra Pradesh out of Rs.6,500 crore allocated to it for this fiscal under NREGS, following representations made by the Minister.