A committee of chief ministers is expected to endorse the proposal to use funds from the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) for fencing of farmlands — on the condition that it is done for the village as a whole or a cluster of hamlets, not an individual's land.
The panel is chaired by Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. It was constituted by the Centre to propose on the integration of the rural jobs scheme with the agricultural sector. Fencing of individual farmland is one of many works the panel was to mull on. Some others include desilting of irrigation channels, creation of market yards and small marketing structures in villages. Agro-forestry is another, officials said.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, in a presentation to the panel (of which he is also a part) had reportedly favoured using MGNREGS labour for building fences on individual farms, to prevent attacks from stray animals. These have reportedly assumed large proportions in western UP, leading to crop loss.
However, using the rural job funds for building fences on private land, as also the general move to expand the scheme into newer areas, also met with opposition from critics. They argue an expansion of MGNREGS should not lead to subsidising of private farm labour. It should, instead, create gainful employment in rural areas.
To this, senior officials say the panel is not likely to recommend anything to alter the fundamental character of the scheme.
The panel is also not likely to recommend any wage increase for MGNREGS labour to align it with minimum wages in states.
The Shivraj Singh panel has held five regional meets — at Patna, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Guwahati and Delhi. The idea was to involve experts, farmers and farmer representatives, with others in state governments, to discuss ways to integrate farming activity with the scheme.