Himachal struggles to hike rural jobs scheme wages

Shimla: Cash strapped Himachal Pradesh government unable to pay its share to the centrally funded rural guaranteed jobs (MNREGA) scheme has not only kept wages low but has not even been able to create enough man hour jobs under the program.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, rural development minister Anil Sharma disclosed that wages under MNREGA in Himachal were Rs 154/- per day and acknowledged that it was much lower than the Rs 280/- per day that Haryana pays.

Anil Sharma RD Minister
Anil Sharma RD Minister

Working conditions in a mountainous terrain being more difficult, the lower wages were not helping the program to find many takers for it.

For record, Sharma said:

The rural development department has issued 11.7 lakh job cards in the whole state but of the 539,054 households issued these cards only 55,431 had been provided 100 days of work in a year.

For a state with a population base of about 68 lakh people, a majority of about 61.2 lakh people live in villages.

Sharma said that women participation was rising in the rural job guarantee program and after bringing agriculture and irrigation into the MNREGA ambit, the rural development ministry would approach the central government to cover crop protection jobs from monkeys and other wild animals under the scheme.

Questioned over the government failing to pay MNREGA wages in some parts of the state to job card holders in January-March period, the minister said: the program mandates that wages have to be paid within 15 days. Those who fail to do so would have to pay extra 0.05 percent from their own pockets.

Sharma denied that MNREGA works was being outsourced to influential contractors. “We will act if such complaints are received,” he said. The allegations are that while JCB machines did large scale heavy duty jobs, MNREGA job card holders simply signed and the contractors received the money on their behalf.

The minister who has been charge of continuing the search operation to locate the bodies of students washed away in Beas River, ten days ago said that if panchayat put forth a proposal to work under MNREGA for carrying out fencing work along rivers, the government could consider to bring such jobs under the rural jobs program.

With only 13 bodies of the 25 who engineering students who were washed way at Tahlot village in Kullu – Mandi on June 10, downstream of Largi Dam recovered so far Sharma said, “the remaining bodies are expected to surface in the coming days.” Retrieving teams on Friday recovered on body from Pandoh barrage.

As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik has nurtured Hill Post for over a decade. A chequered path had him drift from managing family owned apple orchards, to turning a documentary filmmaker, to a journalist - with India’s leading television networks and newspapers, to boot strapping in founding Start-Ups. He lives in Shimla.

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