A chief ministers’ panel and NITI Aayog on Thursday deliberated on using MGNREGA funds for rehabilitation of agricultural land impacted by natural calamities as well as supplementing farm labour costs.
The first meeting of the Sub-Group of Chief Ministers on coordination between the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and agriculture also discussed reducing the cost of cultivation and enhancing productivity through efficient use of water. The meeting, held at the NITI Aayog, was chaired by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. According to an official statement, five critical areas in which MGNREGA could positively help came to the fore in the meeting.
“These include – those related to reducing the cost of cultivation, enhancing the production through efficient use of water or other inputs, providing remunerative price to farmers by incentivising aggregation and market infrastructure, rehabilitation of agricultural land and assets after natural hazards or re-plantation using MGNREGA fund and bringing diversification in agriculture to help occupational diversification and maximising profit. “Besides, incentivising farm fencing to protect the farmer fields from wild animals was also suggested,” the statement said.
According to the statement, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath suggested use of MGNREGA funds in supplementing labour costs in agriculture and fencing of farmland to protect it from wild animals. The statement further said it was unanimously decided that all these issues require larger deliberations and wide range discussions with all the stakeholders. “5 regional meetings/workshops would be organized one each at Patna, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Guwahati and New Delhi to discuss with experts, farmers and farmer’s representatives and other stakeholders along with state governments,” it said.
The sub-roup also reiterated that while working for coordination, the government must ensure the rights of the labourers and maintain the ‘asset creation’ spirit of MGNREGA. NITI Aayog, in consultation with the Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Agriculture as well as state governments, will finalise the regional meetings. These regional meetings will be completed before August 15, 2018. The next meeting of the sub-group will be held on August 31. The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh participated in the meeting in person. Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar and his Gujarat counterpart Vijay Rupani joined in the deliberations through video conferencing. Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh N Chandrababu Naidu and West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee sent their suggestions in writing to the convener of the sub-group.
NITI Aayog member (Agriculture) Ramesh Chand, Secretary, Rural Development; Chief Executive Officer, NRAA, Senior Officers of NITI Aayog, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Ministry of Agriculture and state governments of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh also attended the deliberations. In the fourth meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog, held under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister on June 17, a major decision was taken for policy coordination between agriculture sector and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), particularly in pre-sowing and post-harvest activities at the farmers’ fields.
The Prime Minister then constituted a sub-group consisting of chief ministers of seven states — Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal, and Sikkim — and member, NITI Aayog with the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh as the convener.