Rural jobs scheme not forever, says Tomar

Rural Development and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar. File photo

Rural Development and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Wednesday told the Lok Sabha that the government was not in favour of continuing the popular rural jobs scheme MGNREGA forever.

He said the larger goal was the eradication of poverty and the scheme will lose relevance gradually as the government makes progress lifting people out of poverty.

Responding to a discussion on the Demand for Grants of the Rural Development and Agriculture Ministries, Tomar also admitted that the government's flagship initiative – the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana – had some shortcomings.

“We do not believe that it is a comprehensive scheme and are open to constructive suggestions to make it more simple and beneficial for farmers,” the minister said, replying to a debate that continued till midnight on Tuesday.

Several members voiced concerns over the allocation made to the MNREGA scheme, contending that the government has slashed the monies due to the initiative.

Tomar sought to assuage the members' concerns, saying that the allocation for MGNREGA had been hiked from Rs 55,000 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 60,000 crore 2019-20.

“I am not in favour of continuing with MNREGA forever. Because it is for the poor and the government wants to eradicate poverty from India and is working in this direction,” he said.

Tomar said the overall budget for various schemes such as MGNREGA, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana has increased by 76 % to 5.77 lakh crore when compared with the allocation of Rs 3.58 lakh crore in 2009-14.

The minister said 1.25 lakh kilometers of roads will be built under the third phase of the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana at an estimated cost of Rs 80,000 crore.

The construction of these roads would be completed by 2024-25, Tomar said, highlighting that speed of construction of roads increased under Modi government to 135 km per day from 76 km per day during previous governments.

Sharing details of the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (grameen), the minister said more than 1.50 lakh houses have been constructed for the poor or those living in 'kuchha' houses.

He added that another 1.95 lakh more homes will be constructed by 2022, and these will have toilets, power connection and gas cylinder.

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