'Job days under NREGA scheme could be increased'
New Delhi: The government may raise the number of job days under the NREGA scheme to compensate rural households for loss of income due to a poor monsoon in large part of the country.
"We have to see whether the 100 days limit (of employment days under NREGA) is adequate. If it is not adequate, we can increase it temporarily," Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said.
Under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), the government is bound by law to provide a minimum of 100 days of employment in a year to the member of a family living Below Poverty Line (BPL).
Noting that the impact of a deficient rainfall was more profound in the rural areas, Ahluwalia said, "One of the biggest advantage we have is existence of a national rural employment guarantee scheme."
The scheme has given the government a very flexible mechanism for dealing with loss of income and mitigating poverty in rural areas, he said, regretting that in many areas, states have not provided 100 days of employment to job seekers.
Job creation under the NREGA assumes importance as workers in the farm sector will be hit hard by the poor monsoon and declining agriculture output.
Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar recently told the Lok Sabha that deficient monsoon would adversely affect rice production in the country.
According to the Minister, "Total area under paddy has declined from 216.49 lakh hectares to 155.66 lakh hectares till July 27...resulting in a shortfall of around 60 lakh hectares."
Besides paddy, areas under other crops like bajra, coarse cereals and sugarcane have also shrunk, though there has been some improvement in case of jowar, corn (makka) and cotton.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in his Budget speech has made a case for convergence of various other schemes relating to agriculture, forests, water resources and rural roads to increase the productivity of assets and resources under the NREGA.
The rural employment guarantee scheme, which was initiated in February 2006, provided employment opportunity to more than 4.47 crore households during 2008-09 as compared to 3.39 crore in the previous fiscal.
Besides committing to raise the real wage under the NREGA to Rs 100 per day, Mukherjee in his Budget pegged the allocation for the scheme to Rs 39,000 crore, 144 percent more than what was provided in the previous fiscal.