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MNREGA To Help Implement Direct Benefit Transfers: PM

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Observing that MNREGA has brought has about "financial inclusion" of rural population, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today expressed confidence that bank and post office accounts opened under the central scheme will assist government in providing direct cash transfers to the people.

"MNREGA has brought momentum in the financial inclusion of our rural population. Besides direct financial benefit, the scheme has given many indirect benefits to the people and brought down the migration graph," Singh said at a conference here on Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

Noting that more than four crore accounts have been opened in banks besides those in post offices, the Prime Minister said "these accounts will assist us in reaching the incentives of the Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme to the rural population".

The use of information technology in MNREGA at many levels has helped making governance better and increase accountability and transparency in government work, he said.

Singh said the Centre has taken many new initiatives related to the UPA's flagship scheme in last one year.

Thirty new works have already been added to the list of works permitted under MNREGA, whose focus is mainly on providing employment in rural areas primarily through agriculture, he said.

Singh said a huge improvement can be made in the services bring provided under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) if the resources available with both MNREGA and ICDS can be used together.

The Prime Minister also asked the Rural Development Ministry to ensure, in consultation with states, that panchayats are provided full technical assistance.

"This will help prepare the labour budget truly as per the local development plan and will facilitate the inclusion of all possible resources. Besides, this will also strengthen the Panchyati Raj institutions and increase people's participation in development works," Singh said.

The Prime Minister said around eight crore people have benefited from the scheme so far and an amount of Rs 1.3 lakh crore has reached them under it.

"People from SC/STs have benefited in more than 50 per cent of the works while the participation of women in these scheme has been around 47 per cent. Perhaps this has happened for first time that women are getting wages equal to their male counterparts," he said.

Singh also noted that 80 per cent of the wages being given to the women are going in banks and post offices. "Due to the scheme, the number of women is on constant rise, who take the financial decisions of their families," he said.

This shows how much importance the government gives to the policies and programmes for inclusive growth, Singh said, adding that a close look at the seven-year record of MNREGA shows that it accrued benefits to the poorest in the society especially small farmers and landless labourers.

He said the scheme led to good results in management of natural resources, especially in rain-fed areas of the country.

"There are enough proofs that the scheme has helped to a great extent in getting the small and very small farmers a better produce by increasing land productivity and water conservation," Singh said.

Stress has been given on better planning, increasing the role of panchayats and improving the quality of assets under the amended rules for MNREGA which are being formally implemented today, he said.

The Prime Minister, while reiterating his government's commitment to MNREGA, said successful experiments made by the awardees for adopting new methods in implementing the scheme should be taken note of.