Suggestion will help create assets through the scheme: panel
The State government-appointed Committee for Reorganisation of Centrally Sponsored Schemes has recommended introduction of a 40 per cent material component for work taken up under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). The MGNREG Act stipulates that a 60:40 ratio of labour and material has to be maintained. That means, the cost of material component should not exceed 40 per cent in a work taken up under the scheme.
The recommendation, which will have huge ramifications on the implementation of the scheme in the State, is seen as a tacit sanction for inclusion of construction work in the rural employment scheme.
Chairman of the nine-member committee and Kerala Grama Panchayat Association president P.T. Mathew said the introduction of material component would offer opportunities for creating tangible assets through the scheme. “As per the MGNREG Act, work taken up under the scheme can have up to 40 per cent material component. However, in Kerala, except in Wayanad and Palakkad, we have not introduced this provision so far because of the argument that it will lead to corruption. However, the committee has observed that introducing material component will help in creating assets through the scheme,” Mr. Mathew said.
Another important recommendation made by the committee is issuing of job cards to individuals instead of families. Mr. Mathew said this would help in covering more individuals from rural households. “Since most people in our rural households live in extended families, a large section of people are left out of the scheme. If the job cards are issued to individuals instead of households, we can ensure 100 days' employment for more people,” he said.
The committee has also recommended relaxation in scheme provisions so that agriculture and watershed development work under the scheme can also be taken up on private lands owned by people who do not hold a job card. In order to ensure that workers are given suitable wages, formulation of a special schedule of rates for the MGNREGS has been recommended.
Appointing “mates” (supervisors at the worksite) from among the family members of labourers is another important recommendation made by the committee. It has also recommended that the grama panchayat make appropriate interventions to ensure that the wages are disbursed within the stipulated time.
Panchayats should ensure that traditional workers such as fisherfolk and workers who belong to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are made part of the scheme. A ward-level coordination committee headed by the ward member must be constituted to make appropriate intervention to ensure social justice in the implementation of the scheme.
As part of attaining self-sufficiency in agriculture and food security, the committee suggests that 10 per cent of the MGNREGS fund in every grama panchayat be utilised for vegetable and fruit farming and for social forestry projects. Preparation of watershed master plan in every grama panchayat is one of the important recommendations made by the committee.
Panchayats are to be given permission for taking up work to accommodate the elderly and the physically challenged.
As part of strengthening the staff structure of the MGNREGS cell in panchayats, the committee has brought down the project-cost ceiling to Rs.60 lakh for appointment of additional staff, including technical staff. Instead of giving additional charge to Block Development Officers (BDOs) as Block Project Officers (BPOs), creation of separate BPO posts in panchayats has been suggested.
Addressing rural employment issues is to be made an important criterion while formulating the annual plan in grama panchayats. The estimate preparation of the items of work included in the annual plan should be completed by the month of December as per the committee report.