Union minister for Rural Development Birender Singh said that there is a need to strengthen Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) as the rural job scheme has led to empowerment of poor people in the villages. He was talking to media in New Delhi after taking charge of the Ministry of Rural Development, Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water and Sanitation.
The minister said, valuable suggestions have come regarding reforming the rural job scheme and all necessary steps will be taken to strike a right balance between creation of jobs and building durable assets through MGNREGA. According to him, if the need arises, some new works will also be added to the scheme. He, however, acknowledged that there were some problems in the implementation of the scheme and the Government will try to rectify them.
On the issue of impending changes in the Land Acquisition Act, Birender Singh said, efforts will be made to bring about a consensus on the issue. He further added that the Government is not against industrialisation, but the interests of the farmers should not be compromised at any cost. He also clarified that he is not in favour of acquisition of multi-crop lands. When asked to comment whether amendments in the Act will be made in the coming winter session of Parliament, the minister replied that he would stu dy the issue first and then formulate his opinion in a couple of days.
Referring to the Swachh Bharat Mission, Singh said building toilets in the rural areas will be taken on war footing and a massive awareness campaign will be launched for behavioural change as far as sanitation and cleanliness are concerned.. The minister also underlined that the problem of drinking water mainly in the arsenic and fluoride affected regions will be addressed on a priority basis. Nearly 78,000 villages or habitations are facing this problem and also hinted that international expertise will be applied to solve the problem.