Barely a week ahead of the announcement of general election, the UPA government plans to provide an additional 50 days’ employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for tribals who have been granted land rights, provided they have no other private land and they have already completed 100 days of work under the Act in that financial year.
A proposal to this effect will be considered by the Union Cabinet on Friday, government sources told The Hindu .
Clearly, the UPA government is racing against time to provide as many benefits as possible to its core constituencies among the marginalised and underprivileged as its 10 years in power draw to a close.
Going by the MGNREGA records for this category of tribals — who have been granted land rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 — during the period 2011-’12 and 2012-13, this will entail forking out an additional Rs. 206.70 crore every year at a time when the average annual expenditure under the MGNREGA is roughly Rs. 40,000 crore each year. The government estimates that a maximum of 1.56 lakh tribal beneficiaries will be able to work for a full 150 days.
Though the Cabinet note will be brought by the Rural Development Ministry, the nodal department, the proposal emanated from the Tribal Affairs Ministry that had felt that increasing the number of work days for this category of tribals would insulate them from migration.
The Rural Development Ministry, while accepting this reason, has pointed out in the Cabinet note that such a provision will also ensure development and afforestation — increased forest cover and revival of degraded forest land. Not just that, given that most of these areas are afflicted with Left-Wing Extremism, the “provision of this facility would help prevent such families from being exploited by Naxalite elements.”