The National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme (NREGS) will no longer be exclusive to the panchayats of Himachal Pradesh. The state government has decided to allow its departments to execute their schemes using NREGS funds in rural areas,including those meant for tribal and backward panchayats.
In an official communication today sent to all 12 deputy commissioners,project officers of the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) and block development officers (BDOs),the government has said that at least one scheme in every panchayat will be executed by the Line departments out of the funding provided under NREGS. This will be in addition to ongoing work sanctioned under the NREGS for the panchayats.
Later in the day,the department of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj also issued a notification,making it mandatory for the panchayats to concede some of the schemes and maintenance work to the departments.
In fact,the central government norms for NREGA allow 50 per cent of the work to the panchayats and rest to other agencies including the government departments and NGOs. But Himachal Pradesh perhaps was the only state where the panchayats were executing all approved NREGS work,a senior official said.
Todays notification,however,is likely to strengthen the opposition Congress charge that Himachal Pradesh was thriving on funding from the Centre,both in case of the NREGS and the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). This is a joke with the people of Himachal Pradesh,who earlier used to get daily wage jobs and labour work in the government departments. Now strangely,the BJP government has chosen to divert NREGS funds to employee job card holders for such works .Its a clear case of misuse of the NREGA funds provided by the central government for a different purpose,said PCC General secretary Ram Lal Thakur. The Rural and Panchayat Raj departments communication ,however,tried to justify the move quoting the Central guidelines that allow 50 per cent of the work to be implemented by the departments in the states rural areas for improving the road networks,expanding irrigation network to remote and rain-shadow areas and also taking up water harvesting schemes at larger scale.
In fact,there have been some panchayats which have almost reached a saturation point as far as NREGA work is concerned.Also,there are certain panchayats where the government departments are not getting labour to implement their schemes or take-up maintenance work,a Deputy Commissioner said.