As part of the United Progressive Alliance government's poverty alleviation initiatives, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday launched the national food for work programme in Andhra Pradesh's Ranga Reddy district.
The programme would initially cover 150 most backward districts of the country and provide additional supplementary wage employment through creation of need-based economic, social and community assets.
Under the scheme, five kg of food grains per manday will be given to labourers with a minimum of 25 per cent wages in cash. The centre would provide food grains and cash component to the states to generate additional wage employment.
Works relating to water conservation, drought proofing and land improvement, flood control and rural connectivity of all-weather roads would be taken up to create wage employment.
Aloor, a sleepy backward village, was decked up for the national launch of the NFFWP.
Eight most backward districts in AP -- Adilabad, Mahaboobnagar, Ranga Reddy, Khammam, Warangal, Nalgonda, Anantapur and Cuddapah -- would be covered under the national scheme. Union ministers Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and S Jaipal Reddy, Andhra Pradesh Governor Sushilkumar Shinde, Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy, ministers and legislators were present on the occasion.
Later addressing a public meeting, Singh said, the scheme will be improvised in the days to come and the Centre was planning to convert it into an employment guarantee scheme to check migration to cities.
Core rural works would be taken up under the scheme, which provides employment and food grains to locals in eight backward districts in the state.
Rural development has been the thrust area of UPA's Common Minimum Programme, he said, adding, "Our priority is to strengthen panchayat raj institutions to build a strong and vibrant rural economy". The Centre will also launch a rural health scheme to provide medicare at village level and will put in all efforts to fulfil Gandhiji's dream of Gram Swaraj, Singh said.
Education in rural areas will be a focussed area, the prime minister, who earlier interacted with children of child labour bridge course, said.
Proper medicare and education for all rural kids and employment-oriented schemes for youth will ensure growth in rural economy and standard of living, he added.
Meanwhile, the Planning Commission had estimated that the food for work programme would require Rs 3950 crore (Rs 39.5 billion). The government has approved Rs 2020 crore (Rs 20.2 billion) in the current fiscal while keeping the remaining amount in balance.
The food for work programme, a precursor to the National employment guarantee act has a 60:40 cash to foodgrain ratio. Officials pointed out that the 40 per cent foodgrain component would be difficult to disburse if the government was not allowed to lift foodgrains from FCI.
The programme was estimated to cost Rs 38,000 crore (Rs 380 billion) at its peak when the coverage would extend to 600 districts covering 38 million families below poverty line.The National Employment Guarantee Act is expected to be tabled in the winter session of parliament is likely to contain provisions which would put minimal pressure on state finances. The programme will begin in a few districts and then be extended gradually over a period of 4 to 5 years, to cover the entire country.