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In the rail budget, reservation likely for MNREGA - India - DNA

In the rail budget, reservation likely for MNREGA - India - DNA

Railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal is running on the poll track and rural development minister Jairam Ramesh is chugging along.
Ramesh recently okayed Bansal’s proposal to include the railways in the MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act) — a moved aimed at using the transport behemoth for populist measures in view of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Bansal is likely to make an announcement in the upcoming railway budget.
This means that MNREGA, the world’s biggest employment guarantee scheme and the UPA’s most successful flagship scheme, will have a wider scope, thereby benefiting more people.
Earlier this month, Bansal suggested to Ramesh that railway work should be brought under the MNREGA.
Ramesh accepted the offer and identified the areas where the Act could be put to use for the railways. “I would suggest that the works which are consistent with the objectives of MNREGA could be taken up first... Developing waterways/trenches, afforestation, construction of kuccha approach roads could be one of them,” Ramesh said in a letter to Bansal, dated February 12. DNA has a copy of the letter.
In effect, MNREGA’s scope will be expanded and more people will gain from the scheme. Now consider this. According to the finance ministry, up to September 2012, more than 35 million households have been provided with employment under the scheme.
The share of scheduled castes is 23% and that of scheduled tribes is 15%. Additionally, 54% of beneficiaries are women. So, reasons abound for politicos to be excited about it in the election year.
Ramesh has already stepped on the gas. “Arrangements will have to be put in place for identifying suitable works by the Indian railways and submit them to the district programme coordinators for passing them on to the gram panchayats,” he said in the letter.
It is a win-win situation for both the ministers. While Bansal gets the job done at no extra cost for the railways, which is stretched on finances, Ramesh gets a chance to broad-base the scheme and make his report card more appealing before facing the public.