Rural Development Minister Nitin Gadkari, in a reply to Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, rejected most of her suggestions on UPA’s flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
As reported by The Indian Express earlier this month, Raje had written to Gadkari early June asking why the Act couldn’t be delivered as a scheme, adding that it was “difficult” to see the advantages of an Act. She had also suggested expenditure on skill development be included in MGNREGA and the ratio of labour and material as 60:40 be reckoned at the district level. Raje’s letter received criticism from activists as well as other political parties.
In his reply dated June 26, Gadkari defended MGNREGA as being an Act instead of a scheme. “I would like to clarify that the Act functions to fulfil the dual objectives of creating employment for the unskilled workers, thereby addressing the issue of under-employment in the lean agricultural season; and that of creating productive assets, particularly related to land/water/trees. These objectives are to be achieved by following processes, designed to being transparency in the programme implementation,” the letter states.
He also ruled out the need to use MGNREGA funds for skill upgradation. “Regarding using MGNREGA funds for skill up-gradation, I agree that we should move towards skilling the unskilled workers, as per their choice. For this, we have created a whole new division with a separate funding mechanism. We may not need to use the funds under MGNREGA, which are meant primarily for undertaking public works,” Gadkari has said.
Responding to Raje’s suggestion on the labour material ratio, Gadkari said the ministry is in the “process of considering whether this ratio can be reckoned at the district level for all works which are not executed by the Gram Panchayats”.
Recently, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had also sought relaxation in MGNREGA expenditure criterion, asking for the existing wage-material ratio to be relaxed from 60:40 to 50:50.
Raje had also pitched for a stronger State Employment Guarantee Council (SEGC), claiming it be given “complete flexibility to include any kind of work as per local needs”. To this, Gadkari has said the powers of the SEGC are defined in the Act in detail.
Sources said Ashish Khetan will be the vice-chairman of the commission.