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Centre hits out at Bihar govt for 'poor' show in NREGA

Press Trust Of India  |  New Delhi 

The Centre today lashed out at the Bihar government for its "poor" performance in the rural job guarantee scheme and accused Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of "playing fraud" and misleading the masses.
"So far as performance under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is concerned, Bihar's position is last," Union Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh told reporters here.
He said the NDA-ruled state had not shown any interest in the successful implementation of the ambitious project of the UPA government to provide 100 days of employment to each rural household.
"The chief minister has played fraud and misled the people," he said. "Besides, the chief minister has not even cared to respond to the ministry's letters. We have sent at least 50 letters and what we have got is only acknowledgment and nothing else," Singh said.
He said in 13 districts, the state government had not even started any work. The minister said Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh were doing well in the flagship programme of the Centre.
Singh said that he would seek more budgetary allocation in the next financial year to generate more employment and eradicate poverty from the country.
Singh said 14 million families have been given employment under NREGA since the scheme was launched in February last year. The NREGA guarantees 100 days of employment in a financial year to a rural household and provides social security net for the vulnerable groups, he said.
"For the first time in Indian history employment has been conferred the status of a legal right through an Act of Parliament," he said adding it was structured towards harnessing the rural work force not as recipients of doles, but as productive partners in the economic process.
The minister said channelisation of resources under these programmes in identified priority areas could go a long way towards enhancing and conserving the natural resources and creating durable economic assets capable of triggering opportunities for economic activity.
On the issue of rural unemployment, he said, the Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (SGRY) and the Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojna were being implemented by his ministry covering all aspects of self-employment like organisation of the poor into Self Help Groups (SHGs), training, credit, technology, infrastructure and marketing.
Noting that efficient use of land was vital for economic growth and development of rural areas, Singh said his ministry had taken various initiatives to make the best utilisation of land and improve its quality.
The ministry is implementing the Drought Prone Areas Programme (DPAP), Desert Development Programme (DDP) and Integrated Wastelands Development Programme (IWDP) and pointed out that fund allocation for these programmes was increasing every year.
He said under DPAP, 3,000 new projects covering 1.5 million hectares had been sanctioned during 2005-06, while under DDP, 2,000 new projects covering a million hectares has been approved during the period.
Likewise, under IWDP, 340 new projects covering 1.6 million hectares have been sanctioned. Singh said the government was committed to landless rural poor having greater access to land through various initiatives pertaining to land reforms.
The ministry had initiated "Hariyali (greenery)" scheme empowering village community through Panchayti Raj Institutions to undertake the area development programmes on wasteland with financial and technical support from the government, he said.
"We are giving special emphasis on rainwater harvesting and de-silting of ponds under watershed projects," he said. To provide shelter to the rural poor, the ministry had constructed over one million houses during 2005-06 under the Indira Awaas Yojana, an important component of the Bharat Nirman project for development of rural infrastructure.
Singh said the rural development ministry was supplementing the efforts of the state governments in ensuring safe drinking water supply and a substantial investment of Rs 55 billion had been made to provide the basic necessity.
On rural sanitation, he said the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) gave emphasis on information, education and communication for improving awareness about sanitation.
As many as 6.6 million individual household toilets, 46,822 school toilets, 1,964 women community complexes and 14,521 anganwadi toilets have been constructed so far along with establishment of 1,772 rural sanitary marts and production centres.
He said another important component of Bharat Nirman was the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana to provide connectivity to inaccessible rural habitations, improving the tempo of economic activity and ensuring access for rural poor to employment opportunities, education and health.

First Published: Mon, January 15 2007. 00:00 IST