Chandigarh, May 18:

Even as the state gets ready to utilise the additional allocation to MNREGS to help the rural poor by creating  livelihoods and assets, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday said that Punjab had undertaken significant labour-intensive works in the villages to effectively leverage the scheme even during the curfew/lockdown.

The state government also plans to undertaken a special drive this year, to enrol more workers and make new job cards to bring more families under the ambit of the programme. This initiative is aimed at creating a sustainable response to address rural distress arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic, announced the Chief Minister.

The lockdown works included engagement of two persons per village as ‘Van Mitras’ to nurture the 550 saplings planted in each by the Forest Department to commemorate the 550th anniversary of Shri Guru Nanak Dev ji. The state government, on May 12, also launched a massive village ponds cleaning and rejuvenation drive to cover more than 15,000 village ponds, which will not only help alleviate rural distress but also combat Covid-19 by enhancing cleanliness and hygiene in villages.

These unique initiatives are helping to address the rural distress caused by the Covid-19 pandemic by directly transferring wages in the hands of rural poor, many of whom are women, said the Chief Minister, adding that these programmes are in addition to the plethora of measures undertaken by the state to secure the interests of the poor in these difficult times.

Since last year, the procedure of identification, estimation, technical and administrative approval of works is being done online in the state, by means of a web based software called SECURE. From April 1, 2020, all MNREGS works estimates are being made only through SECURE software, thus ensuring that the curfew/lockdown restrictions did not obstruct the process in any way.

Incidentally, during FY 2019-20, an amount of Rs.767 crore was spent under MNREGS, which is the highest ever expenditure in the state. With this, a record total of 2.35 crore mandays were generated during the year, of which 1.38 crore were for women and 1.57 lakh for elderly (over 60 years). During  the year, a total of 7.53 lac households  were provided employment and a total of 1.27 lac new job cards were made, covering needy families. The state government has now set a target of 2.50 crore mandays for FY 2020-21.

Giving details of the new initiatives, the Chief Minister said that the ponds renovation work, launched  in mission mode by the Rural Development and Panchayats department, is covering all the 13,000 villages of the state for the cleanliness and sanitation of the villages, along with generation of employment opportunities for workers.

A Task Force has been set up to implement this drive in a time-bound manner. Daily Progress Status is taken online, and the department will be working on identifying and rewarding the Champion sarpanches of these drive, and will also compile the Success Stories of this drive.

According to an official spokesperson, the Department has identified around 15,000 ponds in the State, and is targeting the Dewatering and Desilting (if required) of all these ponds.  The Department will be working on creating Thapar Based Model /Seechewal Model for these ponds so as to provide a permanent solution to the problem of overflowing in these ponds. Launching the drive, Rural Development and Panchayats Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, while addressing all field officers via Video Conferencing, had encouraged all officers to undertake the work of renovation and rejuvenation of ponds – the lifeline of rural Punjab.

Giving details of the works undertaken in FY 2019-20, the spokesperson said that a  total of  89,333 works of different categories had been taken up under the scheme. Panchayats have been provided with 905 playfields, 8,006 rural roads, 78  Anganwadi Centers, and work is ongoing in 355 Anganwadis. Also under the 550th Birth Anniversary Celebration of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, 550 plants have been planted in every panchayat of the State.

The bulk of the 89333 works undertaken during the year related to Rural Connectivity (22540), while works on Individual Lands (Category IV) were 19,346, followed by Drought Proofing (16,785) and Land Development (10,984). There were 7706 works on renovation of traditional water bodies, 5178 Micro Irrigation Works, 2611 of Rural Infrastructure, 1428 in Water Conservation & Water Harvesting, 1303 Flood Control & Protection, 984 Rural Sanitation, 142 Bharat Nirman Rajeev Gandhi Sewa Kendra, 90 Rural Drinking Water, 81 Playgrounds, 79 Fisheries and 76 Other Works.

For construction of sheds for livestock and other individual works for MGNREGS beneficiaries, the state government, as a policy response, has waived off  the condition of 40% matching share to be paid by the beneficiary. Now the entire 100% cost of the Shed shall be borne by the Government itself.  The maximum benefit provided under this project will be Rs. 97,000 per beneficiary. In 2019-20 a total of 19,346 works on Individual lands were taken up.

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