Friday, November 13, 2009

Job drive in Maoist zones

CITHARA PAUL

New Delhi, Nov. 13: The Centre is planning a more pro-active rural job scheme package in the worst Maoist-hit regions, with the state governments collecting applications and ensuring job cards to every eligible household and fast-tracking payment.

As part of the efforts to counter the rebel threat through development, Delhi has asked nine states to start at least one National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme project in every village in the 33 districts it considers the worst affected by the rebels.

Every eligible household in these districts are to be brought under the job scheme, the rural development ministry has written to Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bengal, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Orissa.

These states must also launch an awareness campaign on the scheme through “wall writing, street plays, distribution of pamphlets and posters, use of television and hoardings”, the letter says.

The workers must be paid within a fortnight — a process that can now take months. (See chart)

A ministry review had found that only 3.2 per cent rural households in these 33 districts were provided the mandatory 100 days’ employment under the scheme in the year 2008-09, although there were no reports of Maoists disrupting the scheme’s implementation, an official said. A standard argument offered by those who want a crackdown before development is that the rebels are likely to disrupt government projects and snatch the money unless driven out first.

An official credited Rahul Gandhi for the latest move. Rahul, a member of the House consultative committee on the job scheme, had at a meeting questioned the ministry’s claims about the performance of the scheme in Maoist-hit states. “He pulled up the minister and officials… and asked for a (more accurate) performance report by the next meeting,’’ said an official who was at the meeting.

The government has also asked the states to start development projects on the plots of small and marginal farmers and the holders of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, below-poverty-line and Indira Awas Yojana cards.

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