Gangtok, June 18
MGNREGA is currently in its 7th year of implementation in Sikkim. This Scheme has been universalized and is operational in all the 165 Gram Panchayats of the State. The Scheme has been able to put money in the hands of the poorest of the poor on a scale that is unprecedented. During 2011-12, sixty thousand rural households participated in this program. Wage payment to the tune of Rs. 60 crore was released to them, through bank and post office accounts thereby creating a multiplier effect and stimulating the rural economy. The average person days per household was 83 days, which translates to an additional income of Rs 9,800 per household which compares favourably with the national average of 42 days. MGNREGA was able to dignify labour work in the villages, and provide purchasing power among the rural households. Unmatched scale, decentralized people driven implementation, coupled with stringent transparency norms marks the DNA of this program in Sikkim. No wonder, the State has bagged 4 national awards over the last few years.
During 2011-12, one thousand six hundred village level assets were completed which include 42 minor irrigation channels, 125 jhora training works, 167 village footpaths, 31 village roads, 43 school playgrounds and land terracing, 314 forestry, horticulture and fodder plantations, 65 water storage tanks, 14 Rajiv Gandhi Seva Kendras and other land development works.
Recently, the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India has approved a labour budget to the tune of Rs 120 crore for 2012-13, and also sanctioned Rs 53 crore as the first installment. North district has received Rs 5.60 crore, East District Rs 13.16 crore, South District Rs 14.01 crore and West District Rs 20.49 crore. Sikkim is amongst the few states where 100% implementation is being done by Gram Panchayats. The average annual outlay for a Gram Panchayat is about Rs 70 lakh. The wage rate has also been enhanced to Rs 124/- per day with effect from 1st April, 2012. Also, for the three high altitude Gram Panchayats of Lachen and Lachung in North District and Gnathang in East District which are located above 8,000 feet, 50% enhancement of the wage rate which amounts to Rs 186/- per day has been permitted. The Dhara Vikas (spring shed development) initiative to revive dying springs, streams and lakes by taking up ground water recharge initiatives has been recognized by the Planning Commission, Government of India and included in the list of expanded permissible works under MGNREGA. This spring shed development initiative (dhara vikas) is a gift of Sikkim State to the larger Himalayan region which is also facing the similar problem of large scale drying up of springs.
The plan of action this year is to improve work site management by empanelment and training of the mates, better record keeping at the village and block level, stronger inspections and oversight in implementation and more elaborate social audits which will span for 2 weeks in each gram panchayat. MGNREGA has helped in empowering Panchayati Raj Institutions by bringing in real democracy to the grassroots, and facilitated the transformation from Contractor Raj to Panchayati Raj. This flagship programme has the potential to help the State achieve the target of faster and more inclusive growth as envisaged during the 12th Five Year Plan.
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