Agriculture not hit by jobs scheme, says Ramesh

Agriculture not hit by jobs scheme, says Ramesh

MGNREGS works are taken up in off season, explains the minister

Allaying fears that the rural job scheme Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act (MGNREG) is taking its toll on agricultural production, Rural Development minister Jairam Ramesh on Thursday claimed such fears are “totally unfounded.”

“I would like to categorically state on the floor of the House that these fears are totally unfounded,” Ramesh said, replying to a question by Bharatiya Janata Party legislator Poonam Veljibhai Jat in Lok Sabha on whether number of workers in agricultural sector has gone down since introduction of the scheme.

To buttress his argument, Ramesh said 70 per cent of the works under MGNREGS are implemented in the off-season. Hence the argument that MGNREGS has brought down agricultural productivity stands void.

Ramesh also informed the House that in the last six years since implementation of the scheme in 2006, schedule 1 of the Act has been amended and 30 new works have been added as per suggestions from states including Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. “Out of these 30 works, 22 are related to agriculture,” he stressed.

Speaking on issuance of bogus job cards and irregularities in payments to labourers, Ramesh said: “Chartered accountants are verifying MGNREGS records to check such activities. Moreover, Comptroller Auditor General is expected to present the first ever audit report on MGNREGS in December.”

Ramesh said the government is planning to use Aadhar cards for paying wages. He however added that the responsibility of taking punitive action against errant officials lies primarily with state governments. “The primary responsibility for taking corrective action lies with the state. We can send national level monitors.

“We have sent hundreds of national level monitors. We have hundreds of quality reports. But ultimately, it is the state government that has to take action,” Ramesh said.

Taking a dig at the states, following the furore over implementation of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre, Ramesh said: “If government doesn’t move to take action (against officials) then you will say that we are attacking the federal structure.”

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