8 August :A National Conference with the Heads of Universities, Technological and Management Institutes organized by the Ministry of Rural Development held recently has agreed upon the suggestions of Union Minister of Rural Development, Dr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh
that the main task of the intellectuals in this regard is to generate proper awareness and they can pass on the necessary information to masses in the form of articles, books , organizing meetings, seminars and using audio-visual media with open minds as how to spread the correct and balanced information about the Government initiatives in tackling the poverty curb the malpractices in the implementation process of NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act).
This conference was aimed to promote collaboration with the Universities and professional institutions to improve the implementation of NREGA and also to bring the course curriculum of the leading educational institutions in line with the requirement of effective implementation of NREGA – a flagship programme of Government. Several Heads of these apex institutions agreed to include in their courses the teaching of issues related to rural poverty, unemployment and natural resources management as embodied in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. The participants included Dr. Rajender Prasad from IIT Delhi, Dr. M.D Behra from IIT Kharagpur, Professor N.G Shah from IIT Mumbai, Professor S.P Singh from IIT Rorkee, Rahul Nilakantan from IIM Ahmedabad , B. Panda from IIM Shillong, Manish Thakur from IIM Calcutta, Professor Gyanender Singh Vice Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi Chitrakoot Gramodaya University, Dr. C.S Hazra Vice Chancellor of Indira Gandhi Agricultural University, Raipur, Professor K. Kannan of Nagaland University Vice Chancellor and other eminent Academicians and Professionals.. Several Heads of these apex institutions agreed to include in their courses the teaching of issues related to rural poverty, unemployment and natural resources management as embodied in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. They stated that they will also encourage their students to carry out studies related to the implementation of NREGS at the ground level during their visits to the rural areas for field work.
Various areas of technical collaboration with the Institutes were identified during deliberations. It included the Agricultural Universities potential support in conducting studies on impact assessment on employment, migration, income, wages, agricultural productivity, moisture retention and recharging of the ground water. They may also undertake agro-climatic zone wise research studies, and on-farming studies for NREGA areas as also assist in the preparation of sustainable land use plan for different agro-ecological sub-regions. These Universities may also undertake action research pilots on application of Natural Resources Management Technologies such as sand dune stabilization, digitized district wise soil fertility maps, low cost water storage and utilization systems, integrated fish farming and waste water treatment through aquaculture. Similarly the IITs may provide assistance for preparation of works manual, quality control guidelines for assets created under NREGA, technical inputs for improvement in NREGA works, model for work convergence of NREGA with other government programmes, and training and capacity building of NREGA technical staff.
Also, the IIMs may help in development of tools for programme evaluation and monitoring, training and capacity building of Programme Officers and District Programme Coordinators, and development of techniques and tools for convergence of agri-business and concurrent evaluation studies on NREGA.It was also proposed that the Universities and the professional institutions may include in their courses and curricula on Rural Economics, Rural Sociology, Political Science and Rural Management the implementation of NREGA and its implications on rural governance. Case studies may be developed through joint collaboration of the institutions and NREGA implementation agencies that may be used in teaching as well as training institutions. They may encourage under graduate and graduate students in different programmes to work as summer interns in the NREGA programme and earn a certificate at the end of their internship. They may also join with Ministry of Rural Development in concurrent evaluation and monitoring of NREGA.
The modalities of the act to the participants were also shown in a presentation and it was told that since the commencement of the NREGA implementation in the country in the 1st phase(2006-07) 2.10 crore households were provided employment. This figure rose to 3.39 crore house holds in 2007-08 and upto June 2008 this year (2008-09) 2.11 crore house holds have been provided employment. Compared to the 90.50 crore person days employment in 2006-07 and 143.59 crore persondays employment in 2007-08, 67.64 crore person days of employment has been generated up to June 2008 this year. The initial positive trends shows an enhancement in the wage security and productivity of rural masses as the distress migration has receded in the States of Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh , Chhattisgarh and Orissa. Moreover the wage capacity of wage earners is developing vis a vis s private employment. Nearly 2.3 crore savings accounts of wage earners have been opened in Banks/Post Offices under financial inclusion. The insurance of wage earners under Janshri Bima Yojana and convergance with other development programmes: Jatropha (Chhattisgarh, MP), Forest Nurseries (Udaipur in Rajasthan, Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh) and beginning of recharge of water tables in Dungarpur (Rajasthan) and Villupuram (Tamil Nadu) and second crop on SC/ST farms in Chhattisgarh, MP, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu. During the deliberations the Union Rural Development Minister Dr.Raghuvansh Prasad Singh pondered upon the the benefits of NREGA to Agriculture and said the increase in productivity through the creation of permanent assets for water harvesting, check dams, ground water recharging, improve moisture content, micro-irrigation, check in soil erosion and from mono crop to double cropping has been clearly noticed. This has also resulted in the increased labor availability by curtailing distress migration. The indirect benefits of NREGA implementation are improved inputs through augmenting income of cultivators and increased access to markets and services through rural connectivity networks.