New Delhi, Mar.1 Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has announced that the government will improve already existing welfare schemes and launch new programmes to benefit people living in tribal areas. ANI | 2 years ago

Ramesh announced several measures, the most important of which was the provision of 150 days of guaranteed employment to people living in tribal areas under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

"By the decision of the cabinet, the guaranteed employment in the tribal areas and Maoist-affected areas of the country will increase from 100 days to 150 days," said Ramesh.

MGNREGA is the biggest programme by the Indian government that presently guarantees 100 days of minimum work for poor people in rural areas.

Ramesh said the improved scheme will benefit thousands of tribal people at a small cost to the government expenditure.

"On the basis of the one hundred and fifty thousand people who already complete their 100 days of employment, we have estimated that the total additional cost will be about 21 billion rupees," added Ramesh on Friday.

Apart from that he also announced construction of more government schools all over the country.

Ramesh specified new guidelines in allocating tenders for road construction in under-developed areas of the country.

"In places where the state government feels that there is lack of contractors for road projects, wherever there is no response to government tenders, they now have the right to award tenders for road construction on the basis of nomination," he said.

Apart from acute poverty, hunger and social unrest, massive displacement and disintegration have been major issues of concern in tribal areas. Extractive mining and private take-over of land and forest have already created havoc in the life and livelihoods of tribals living in these areas.

Tribal people allege that Indian constitution guarantees them rights over their land, water and forests, despite which they are exploited in the name of development and their lands are sold to big corporate houses.

In order to protect and safeguard the lives and the natural resources, the Supreme Court of India had given a progressive judgment called Samata Judgement in the year 1997, which protects the land of tribal people under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.

But the Government of Odisha deliberately ignored the judgment and deprives the tribals of their land and other resources. Allegedly, there are multiple mechanisms and fraudulent means which are used by the expropriators of land and resources from the scheduled areas.

This move by the government is in a bid to woo tribals ahead of the parliamentary elections due by May this year. The cabinet's decision is likely to come into effect from April.

The MGNREGA programme was launched just before 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Under this scheme, in which women comprise half of the beneficiaries, is in action in more than 600 districts in the country.

The aim of MGNREGA is to enhance livelihood security for rural households and discourage migration.

(Posted on 01-03-2014)

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