UPA tweaks MGNREGS for tribals

The United Progressive Alliance government on Friday decided to raise the employment guarantee for its flagship rural job scheme from 100 days to 150 days a year, particularly for the tribal people and other forest dwellers.

The Congress-led government’s decision came a few days before the Election Commission puts the nation in poll mode. The move, apparently intended to woo the large section of tribal voters as well as other forest dwellers, may put an additional burden of approximately Rs 210 crore during 2014-15.

A meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh approved the proposal of the Ministry of Rural Development to raise the cap on maximum days of employment to be provided under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

The 2005 MGNREG act legally guarantees at least 100 days of employment in a financial year to every rural household, which has adult members willing to do unskilled manual work. The programme provided jobs to 4.8 crore rural households in 2012-13, generating 213 crore person-days of employment at a total expenditure of over Rs 39,000 crore.

“The Government has decided that guaranteed wage employment under the MGNREGS will be raised from 100 to 150 days from the beginning of the 2014-15 financial year, particularly for the tribal and other forest dwellers,” Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh told journalists after the meeting of the Union Cabinet. He said the enhanced livelihood guarantee under the scheme would benefit the tribal people and other beneficiaries of the Forest Rights Act of 2006, after they would avail 100 days of wage employment under the MGNREGS.

About 14 lakh tribal families across the country got ownership rights on forest land and minor forest produces under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. Nearly 1.6 lakh of them already availed 100 days of wage employment under the MGNREGS during the current financial year, including about 36,000 in Odisha, 34,000 in Chhattisgarh, 21,000 in Madhya Pradesh, 19,000 in Andhra Pradesh and 11,500 in Maharashtra.

If the number of tribal families availing 100 days of wage employment remains more or less the same next year, the Union government would have to spend Rs 210 crore more to guarantee additional 50 days of jobs during 2014-15, said Ramesh.

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