Uttar Pradesh: MNREGS to drive tree plantation & rainwater harvesting

After turning out to be the biggest job spinner during Covid-induced lockdown in 2020-21, Centre’s flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme is poised to drive UP government’s ambitious tree plantation drive during monsoon. On Wednesday, CM Yogi Adityanath directed the rural development department to develop in each district at least two nurseries, each producing at least 15 lakh saplings. This way 75 districts will produce nearly 23 crore saplings — in what will be equivalent to the population size of the state. Yogi was chairing a meeting along with his council of ministers during a presentation made by the rural department.

A decision was also taken to rope in MNREGS workers to push rainwater harvesting in villages, besides deploying the MNREGS force in desilting drains for a better drainage support system. The move comes just over a fortnight after the Centre raised MNREGS wages from Rs 204 to Rs 213, a raise of around 7%.

The fresh impetus to MNREGS attains significance in the backdrop of the BJP government’s bid to ramp up job opportunities and augment its resources after returning to power for the second consecutive time. During 2019-20 and 2021-22, MNREGS engineered the highest employment growth of 213% in the country.

Plantations will be carried out along with revival of rivers — another project to be covered by MNREGS in next 100 days. The rural development department has also been tasked to construct 15,000 sports grounds and rejuvenate 30,000 ponds in next two years, that is by 2024 when next Lok Sabha elections are due. The CM further directed the department to carry out a survey in next six months to track medium of livelihood of households and the extent to which they are getting benefited from various government schemes. The spokesperson said, based on the survey, special efforts may be made for ‘aspirational’ families. At the same time, as many as 30,0000 women mates will be selected, trained and associated under MNREGS. The state government also plans to lend a push to banking correspondent, Sakhis, to bolster rural banking in 58,000 gram panchayats. In 2021-22, BC Sakhis enabled a financial transaction of Rs 2200 crore, while earning a commission of Rs 5.36 crores. Likewise, loans should be made available in coordination with banks by providing women self-help groups with credit cards. Employment or self-employment opportunities should be provided to at least one person in families of women belonging to self-help groups, the CM noted.

Yogi also pressed for efforts to cover 13 lakh families under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Rural) and 1.5 lakh families under Mukhyamantri Awas Yojana (Rural). Under Avanti Bai Lodhi Self Help Group Scheme, one lakh new self-help groups should be formed in next six months. The rural development department has also been directed to establish 200 take-home ration plants and supply nutritious food in 600 development blocks in next 100 days. The spokesperson said, functioning of village secretariat be made online and an anganbadi centre be set up in each village. Also, at least 1.5 lakh toilets be constructed and waste management be ensured at the development block level.

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