MGNREGA softens the blow

Sanjeev Singh Bariana

AMID the Covid disaster, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has sustained hundreds of villagers who had been rendered jobless throughout Punjab. These additionally embrace the youth who returned to villages after they misplaced their jobs in cities and cities.

After the lockdown was first imposed in March-end, the agricultural sector within the state rose to the problem of harvesting wheat regardless of many restrictions, at the same time as vegetable/fruit growers, dairy and poultry farmers confronted a troublesome time. The authorities dealt with 3,700 procurement factors and created 1,100 new ones this time to make sure social distancing.

The Department of Rural Development and Panchayats has made efficient use of the MGNREGA scheme to bail out unemployed individuals, notably in villages.

The common variety of working days beneath MGNREGA was 31 in Punjab within the monetary yr 2019-20. The work is claimed to be progressing even higher this monetary yr. The common was lower than 20 about a few years in the past.

Financial Commissioner (Rural Development and Panchayats) Seema Jain says, “In the Average Daily Progress Report, the number of people employed under MGNREGA in Punjab was 1.5 lakh during 2019-20. The figure has gone up to more than 2.2 lakh in the current financial year.” As a consequence, the state has been in a position to clear at the very least 6,200 ponds this yr.

Gurcharan Singh, sarpanch of Sangat Khurd village in Bathinda district, says “We have been regularly getting funds for our ongoing projects of water works and general sanitation. There has been an increase in the workforce during this time. The scheme has been beneficial particularly for many people who used to travel outside the state for jobs.”

In distinction, sure villages complain that they’re being ignored. Hardeep Dakha, sarpanch of Fazilka’s Khanwala village, situated on the Indo-Pak border, says: “As we are supporters of an opposition party, our village has not been given MGNREGA projects. Villages located 17 km from the border are being given money under the Border Area Development Fund, but we are being denied the same.”

Wheat harvesting was difficult this time as a result of the standard workforce which got here from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh couldn’t enter Punjab as a result of lockdown/curfew. The harvesters got here in giant numbers from the cities and cities of the state the place they labored within the building or catering enterprise, or as taxi drivers. Also, a considerably giant variety of members of the family of farmers took half in harvesting this yr.

Besides rising the variety of mandis for procurement, the federal government additionally prolonged the procurement season until June 15. The motion of wheat to and from the mandis remained clean.

Counting the losses

The crash in capsicum costs compelled irate farmers to throw a tractor-load of their produce on the Mansa-Bathinda street in April. Others who confronted such issues included fruit growers, dairy and poultry farmers. Specific losses had been labored out in a examine carried out by the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) within the first week of May.

Dr Sucha Singh Gill of the CRRID says, “The imposition of curfew in the state in March disrupted the supply chain from the farm to the market. The labourers were not allowed to move out of their homes to work for collection of these products. Vehicles were not allowed to ply on the roads. The perishable commodities remained unsold, causing losses.”

Dr Gills says, “The estimated total loss in four categories (vegetables, fruits, dairying and poultry) suffered by farmers was Rs 1,340 crore during the peak period of the curfew (first 40 days).” Dairying, with losses to the tune of Rs 808 crore, was the worst-hit, adopted by vegetable farming (Rs 440.four crore), poultry (Rs 56 crore) and fruit farming (Rs 36.5 crore).

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