Phailin: Centre agrees to Extend flexibility under MGNREGA to Odisha

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Bhubaneswar: Accepting most of the demands made by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for cyclone victims, the Centre today said it would extend similar flexibility under MGNREGA as given to calamity-ravaged Uttarakhand in July this year.

“I am more than pleased to extend the same flexibility that we have given to Uttarakhand in July 2013 to Odisha which has gone through a severe calamity in the past few weeks,” Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has said in a written reply to Patnaik.

Ramesh’s assurance was given in a reply a few hours after the Chief Minister sent two letters to the Union Minister seeking several assistances including additional three lakh houses under Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) and an additional Rs 500 crore as labour budget under MGNREGA for 2013-14, official sources said.

The Minister said that two specific requests made by Patnaik for use of machinery under MGNREGA and a special grant of Rs 35 crore for repair of IT infrastructure are being considered. “I will revert to you shortly,” Ramesh said.

On the demand for raising the labour budget over and above Rs 1515.7 crore for 2013-14, the Union Minister said that he had been personally requesting the state government officials to come for a review of the labour budget.

Stating that barring Jharkhand, no other state including Odisha has come forward for a review of the labour budget in spite of his open offer, Ramesh said “I wish to state once again that the state government can come any time for a review of the labour budget and what is considered reasonable will be agreed to.”

“We can consider flexibility in pre-conditions for fund release but the important thing is for the state to come for a review of the labour budget,” he said.

Earlier on the day, Patnaik in two separate letters had demanded among other things allotment of at least three lakh additional houses under IAY and a package of Rs 500 crore labour budget under MGNREGA, the sources said.

“I would request you to consider allotting at least three lakh additional houses under IAY for rehabilitation of the homeless people in cyclone ravaged areas,” he said.

Certain relaxations in IAY norms were also required as collecting building materials would be difficult for poor beneficiaries in remote villages, Patnaik said adding the state government may be allowed to engage government/private agencies for quick construction of their houses.

This apart, the chief minister pointed out that in the BPL list of 1997 and households survey of 2002, some genuine poor people have been left out and they may be allowed to be allotted with IAY houses.

In a bid to ensure quick restoration, Patnaik wrote to Ramesh that the state may be allowed to maintain 60:40 labour to material ratio at district level instead of gram panchayat/block level to facilitate large scale construction of durable assets in the affected districts.

The chief minister also demanded enhancement of the maximum permissible 100 days of Wage Employment to 150 days for 2013-14 in the affected districts of Odisha.

Removal of debris, restoration of electricity in rural areas and use of machinery in restoration works may be allowed under MGNREGA, Patnaik said.

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