Sanitation projects, increasing green cover among top priorities for MGNREGA

The new NDA government led by PM Narendra Modi has designed a plan for re-orientation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act or MGNREGA which will now focus on sanitation projects to reduce open defecation, expanding green cover and emphasize on asset-creation.

The new roadmap for the rural employment guarantee scheme, being supervised by rural development minister Nitin Gadkari, will not just based on the number of man days of work provided but will also assess the tangible ground-level changes achieved.

For example, people digging a pond will have to mention the storage capacity being created, its impact on groundwater level etc. Likewise, workers building compost pits will have to mention the quantum of compost they will generate.

It is proposed that about half of the scheme’s fund allocations will be earmarked for rural sanitation projects and plantation of trees along highways and rural roads.

While farm-related projects will continue to get 60% of MGNREGA funds, as under the UPA, the NDA is deploying a more rigorous system to monitor asset creation.

The plan is in consonance with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Budget speech where he said that wage employment would be offered under MGNREGA “through works that are more productive, asset creating and substantially linked to agriculture and allied activities”.

While payments won’t be dependent on accomplishing these outcomes, consistently poor outcomes will need to be explained.

The idea of planting trees and granting rights and responsibilities to the poor to boost their income is not new. It had been used in undivided Andhra Pradesh a few years ago.

This idea of planting trees and granting rights and responsibilities to the poor to boost their income will be implemented nationally in 2014-15. Villagers will be given Rs 15 as maintenance fee for every sapling that survives. This is expected to work as an incentive for them to care for the saplings and follow a specified schedule in the first year of plantation (apart from watering the plants).

Regarding the sanitation part, the national sanitation programme will pay for material and NREGA will pay for labour.