M A I N   N E W S

Manmohan’s New Year resolutions
Thrust on jobs, infrastructure
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 2
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh got down to the business of implementing various ambitious schemes encompassing the employment guarantee scheme and focussing on the direly needed infrastructure in the country’s outbacks to maintain a growth rate of 7 per cent to 8 per cent and ensure that the New Year leads to generation of employment opportunities.

“The Prime Minister took stock of the implementation of programmes launched in 2005 and look at the agenda for 2006. It was a detailed meeting covering all areas including defence and foreign policy,” Dr Singh’s media adviser Sanjaya Baru told mediapersons here today.

The major thrust of the discussions was to ensure close monitoring of the implementation of various programmes in keeping with the pledges of the Congress-led UPA government’s National Common Minimum Programme.

Presentations were made pertaining to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Bharat Nirman, National Urban Renewal Mission and National Rural Health Mission and others in the social sectors.

“A monitoring mechanism will be set up both at the central and state government levels,” Mr Baru observed and maintained that several priority areas were identified which required to the pursued vigorously.

He said infrastructure, power, coal, road, housing and employment generation sectors will be accorded priority this year amid the slogan “Rozgar Badhao” (generate employment).

Clearly, the Prime Minister believes that it has become imperative to think out of the box in implementing these schemes so that it reached the target groups for whom they are intended. Efforts are also under way to gear up the delivery systems which has been the bane of implementing socio-economic measures to uplift the poor and the underprivileged. The state governments have to play a key role in changing the face of rural areas and giving a push to agriculture which has failed to touch the growth rate of 4 per cent.

The Employment Guarantee Act is meant to address the basic human need for a job even though it may be only for 100 days. The scheme ensures that at least one member of a below the poverty line family would be offered a job and till he or she gets it, a third of the minimum wage will be given.

The unemployed person who will be given a job can contribute to the rural economy in various meaningful ways amid apprehension of rampant corruption in the wake of the huge government expenditure. Checks and balances are being finetuned to counter corruption and improving governance so that people can be made accountable.

Some economists point out the scheme has the portends of raising the rate of economic growth and agricultural productivity. There will also be many hidden gains because agricultural casual labour would not migrate to towns in search of jobs and end up living in squalid conditions adding to urban poverty and environmental degradation.

The objections thus far to such huge schemes is primarily due to the failure of the delivery system. The Employment Guarantee Scheme might well be a boon for the poor when agricultural growth is barely 1 per cent to 2 per cent and there are inflationary pressures.

The Bharat Nirman expected to change the face of rural India is being viewed as a four-year business plan for building infrastructure. It will have six components — irrigation, roads, water supply, housing, rural electrification and rural telecom connectivity.

The broad goals of Bharat Nirman are:

  • Bringing an additional 10 million hectares of land under assured irrigation;
  • Providing road connectivity to all villages having a population of 1000 or 500 in hilly/tribal areas;
  • Constructing 60 lakh additional houses for the poor;
  • Providing drinking water to the remaining 74000 habitations that are uncovered;
  • Reaching electricity to the remaining 125000 villages and electricity connections to 2.3 crore households;
  • Providing telephone connectivity to the remaining 66822 villages.

The Rural Infrastructure Development Fund which was revived in July 2004 receives a corpus of Rs 8000 crore in the current fiscal.


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