Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday said there is a need to improve the quality and reach of public services in the rural areas in order to achieve a higher economic growth rate.

“This government has attached high priority to successful implementation of flagship anti-poverty programmes by the Ministry of Rural Development. There is need to improve the quality, reach and periphery of public services in the rural areas in order to reach higher growth rate,” he said.

He was addressing a two-day conference of Project Directors of District Rural Development Administration (DRDA) here, organised by the Ministry of Rural Development.

“It (improvement of public services) should be done as fast as possible,” he said, underlining that inclusive growth could only be achieved if the rural sector of the country gets its rightful share.

Listing the programmes being run by the Rural Development Ministry, Mr. Mukherjee said the government has put in place a framework of policies and programmes, which sought to ensure a holistic development of rural India.

He described the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act as the “largest ever employment programme in human history” and said “NREGA has opened a historic opportunity of rural empowerment. “It has turned out to be a powerful sources of social empowerment of the weaker sections,” he said.

Mr. Mukherjee noted that the project directors of DRDAs play “a very important role” in the implementation of development and poverty alleviation programmes for the betterment of the rural areas of the country. He suggested that they should judge their own performance, “without fear, favour or bias” saying that their ultimate responsibility was to ensure that the benefits of the scheme reach the lowest rung of the society.

“It is up to you to do a critical analysis whether you have met the aspirations of millions of rural poor. You should be continuously guided by the principles of equity, accountability and innovation,” he told the project directors.

Citing steps taken by the government for rural development and poverty alleviations, Mukherjee said, “these initiatives and other interventions of the government need people’s involvement and continuous interface with the government institutions.”

Union Rural Development Minister C P Joshi was also present on the occasion.

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