More central funds for rural jobs, roads in Karnataka

Bangalore, June 14 (IANS) The central government has agreed to release more funds to Karnataka for implementing various schemes to improve the welfare of the people in rural areas across the state, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said Friday.

"I have agreed to release Rs.2,133 crore to Karnataka under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) during this fiscal (2013-14) and the first installment of Rs.774 crore will be sanctioned soon," Ramesh told reporters after reviewing the implementation of the various centrally-sponsored rural schemes in the state here.

With an opening balance of Rs.345 crore and the first installment of Rs.774 crore, the state government will have Rs.1,115 crore at its disposal to speedily implement the NREGA scheme till December for providing jobs to the rural people across the state.

"The state chief minister (Siddaramaiah) has agreed to depute a team of officials to study the implementation of the NREGA scheme in the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh state, which had been able to create more rural jobs under the scheme," Ramesh said after the review meeting with state officials.

The state government has also agreed to open separate bank accounts for women job card holders and set up a social audit directorate in Bangalore to monitor flow of funds under the programme.

"The state government should utilise the NREGA funds also for the benefit of small and marginal farmers to augment their irrigation needs, improve soil fertility and water supply," Ramesh suggested.

Referring to the Comptroller and Audit General's (CAG) critical observations on the implementation of the NREGA scheme in the state, Ramesh regretted that there was diversion of funds and many works were incomplete during the last couple of years.

"We were very unhappy at the manner in which the central schemes were implemented under the previous (BJP) government. There were diversion of funds and works were incomplete as the NREGA was very badly implemented," Ramesh lamented.

For instance, the state spent Rs.1,440 crore under the NREGA scheme last fiscal (2012-13) as against Rs.1,640 crore in previous fiscal (2011-12), he noted.

"I have told the state government to eliminate misuse of funds and bogus job card holders," Ramesh noted.

The minister has agreed to set up a national rural training academy in Bangalore to impart job skills to rural folks to work under the NREGA scheme on the lines of the rural development and self-employment training institute at Dharmasthala, about 300km from here.

"I have agreed to sanction Rs.278 crore for integrated watershed development this fiscal to supply water for three lakh hectares of arid areas across the state," Ramesh said.

Siddaramaiah sought funds from the central ministry to develop 2,245km of roads for rural connectivity across the state under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY).

"I have asked the chief minister to send the proposal by July to release funds by August so that upgradation works can be taken up after the monsoon under the PMGSY at a cost of Rs.40 lakh per kilometer," Ramesh said.

The state government also sought funds to build an additional 50,000 dwelling units for the rural poor under the centrally sponsored Indira Awaz Yojana (IAY) to house tribals, devadasis and migrants.

"I have agreed for additional sanction provided the new units are also targetted at destitutes, vulnerable social groups, widows and forest dwellers," Ramesh added.

The central government has sanctioned funds to build 87,814 dwelling units under the IAY this fiscal.

"Implementation of the IAY scheme was very bad during the previous government, as 13 districts did not send utilisation certificates and 17 of the total 30 districts across the state did not close their accounts," Ramesh recalled.

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