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CMs' panel to suggest measures to integrate MGNREGA with farm work

Sanjeeb Mukherjee/New Delhi 12 Jul 18 | 11:56 PM

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar,ss who is part of the panel, said MGNREGA’s scope must be expanded. He urged the sub-group to look into the minimum wages offered under the Act

A high-powered panel of chief ministers will find out ways through which the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) labour could be used for doing jobs that reduce cost of cultivation for farmers, enhancing production, and even fencing of farms to protect them from wild animals.

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The committee will also suggest how the Act can be used to incentivise aggregation and market infrastructure, rehabilitate agricultural land after natural hazards and bring diversification in farming. 

The panel headed by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also decided to organise five regional workshops, in Patna, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Guwahati and New Delhi, to discuss with all stakeholders, including state governments, the various options to better integrate MGNREGA with farming activities. The regional meetings will be completed by August 15, while the next meeting of the panel is scheduled for August 30.

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“We will reach out to the CMs of all states and take onboard suggestions from across the country. Regional workshops and on-ground visits shall be organised to ensure recommendations are crafted keeping in mind labour welfare," Chouhan tweeted after the committee’s meeting on Thursday.

Currently, a lot of work done under MGNREGA, including building irrigation structures, farm ponds, bunds and canals, is meant to assist agriculture and create permanent water sources.  

But most of these are public assets as the creation of private properties is prohibited under the scheme, except a few like toilets under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Grameen. 

ALSO READ: Budget 2018: Odisha CM upset with lower allocation for MGNREGA, PMGSY

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the last full meeting of the NITI Aayog, which was attended by all chief ministers, had stressed the need for further policy integration of MGNREGA with agriculture, particularly in pre- and post-harvest activities. He had formed a high-powered panel of chief ministers headed by Chouhan to further deliberate on the issue. 

UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandra Babu Naidu, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani are other members of the panel. Mamata Banerjee and Naidu sent in their recommendations in writing, while Nitish Kumar and Rupani attended it through video conferencing.

Nitish Kumar said that from pre-sowing to harvesting there was a need for labour, and the committee should also look at the issue of minimum wages under MGNREGA, which are lower than state-paid wages.

“The sub-group, meanwhile, reiterated that while working for the coordination (between MGNREGA and agriculture), we must ensure the rights of the laborers and maintain the asset creation spirit of MGNREGA," an official statement said.

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