MGNREGA workers to clear snow in HP

In a first, Himachal Pradesh has led the way this winter in generating jobs under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) by employing people to clear snow from roads, highways and pathways in snow-clad high altitude terrains. 

Until now, it was a bone-chilling task that was best left to heavy howling machinery. The hill state’s experiment to clear snow under MGNREGA has started offering employment to the job card holders in the tribal highland regions in Kinnaur district, to begin with. 

Each year this time around, snow-clad regions in the upper parts of Himachal Pradesh (HP) usually spell despair for locals rendering them jobless as normal life comes to a near standstill. But the district administration hopes this winter will help them sustain better. There are 15,600 job-card holders in Kinnaur alone who would now not have to wait for winters to recede to get into a wage cycle. 

Sources said, the hill state some time ago was also mulling the option of using MNREGA job card holders to drive away monkeys from fields given the extent of large-scale damage simians had caused to plantations. That, however, didn’t materialise. But clearing snow manually under the scheme is now a reality. 

Sources said, it all started with a simple query by the district administration to the state government seeking clarification on whether or not the task of manual clearing of snow from roads and other areas could be covered under the flagship scheme. After due diligence, the state’s department of rural development considered that since clearing of debris under the scheme was an essential activity, snow clearing too could be carried out by job card holders. 

The high altitude district of Kinnaur is under thick cover of snow for long durations during winters when temperatures plummet below freezing point. 

J M Pathania, Deputy Commissioner Kinnaur said the process has been initiated and will generate jobs and help restore roads. 

But the experiment of clearing snow manually may pose a challenge in various other areas in HP where the snowfall is more severe and there are fewer job card holders, like in Lahaul and Spiti, sources said

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