Special Correspondent

JAIPUR: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has sought to link the much talked about National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) with a massive new tree plantation drive his government is planning. The State Forest Department would organise the seedlings for the drive while the Public Works Department would identify the roads along which the saplings could be planted by the time the monsoon arrives, he said.

Addressing a meeting of ministers and senior officials of the Forest, Panchayati Raj and PWD departments here for better implementation of NREGS, Mr. Gehlot said that for the success of the job scheme the authorities should involve the panchayats, the common man, NGOs, service sector organisations and the media.

The State Directorate of Information and Public Relations can also help further in propagating the scheme, he noted.

The new strategies being devised for NREGS include a five-year programme for tree plantation incorporating the man-days which can be generated through the scheme. “As many as 1,000 new plant nurseries can be set up for regular supply of the seedlings,” Mr. Gehlot said, adding that more saplings of neem and peepul (banyan) should be planted in the rural areas and along identified highways.

Observing that media houses were engaged in various public interest campaigns these days to save water and conserve natural resources, Mr. Gehlot said he felt that help could be taken from them for the tree plantation drive as well. Innovative aspects such as numbering the trees planted in a particular village can be considered so that people get interested in the scheme and the survival rate remains high, he added.

Speaking on the occasion, Chief Secretary Kushal Singh said people from the minority communities would be given jobs under the NREGS. The district collectors have been asked to devise strategies for better implementation of the jobs scheme.

“The six-lakh Government employees can join in by planting at least one tree each. As many as 18 of the State’s 33 districts have started NREGS helpline,” she noted.