The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dole onus on slack states
- Rural job bill sets 15-day deadline

New Delhi, Dec. 21: Governments which fail to provide a minimum 100 days of employment to at least one adult member of a rural household in designated areas in their respective state will have to provide an unemployment allowance.

The dole proposal is among the novel features of the long-awaited rural employment guarantee bill introduced in the Lok Sabha today by rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh amid accusations by BJP MPs that the legislation had been 'hurried' with an eye on the coming Assembly elections.

The bill envisages at least 100 days' work in a year for adults who volunteer for unskilled manual work and register for employment under the national rural employment scheme.

The Centre may fix the wage, to be paid on a weekly basis, which may vary from area to area as well as state to state. If it does not fix the rate, state governments will fix the minimum wage, the bill says.

According to the bill, applicants should be provided employment within 15 days of receipt of application. But if employment is not provided, the adult must be paid dole which will range between 25 and 50 per cent of the wage rate.

State governments would have to implement the national rural employment guarantee programme within six months of the Centre notifying it after the bill becomes an Act. The scheme so drawn up will identify work priorities for implementing the programme.

The manual work under the programme could be one of the following: water conservation, water harvesting, drought-proofing, afforestation, tree planting, irrigation canals, minor irrigation works, land development or desilting of traditional water bodies. Engaging of contractors would not be allowed.

It would be the village panchayat's responsibility to prepare a list of applicants eligible for employment under the programme, identify work and audit the scheme at the grassroots level. Accounts would be made available to the public on demand.

The Centre is required to set up a central fund, but state governments are mandated to set up state funds for implementing the programmes ' grants and loans could be taken.

To implement and monitor the programme, the Centre will set up a central council headed by a chairperson andconsisting of members who will represent the Centre and state governments as well as non-official organisations. There will be state councils at the state level.

The central fund will finance the cost of payment of wages, 75 per cent of the material cost involved in implementing the scheme and administrative expenses incurred on central council and programme co-ordinators at the district and block levels. The state fund is required to bear the cost of unemployment allowance, 25 per cent of the material cost and the administrative cost on account of the state council.

Once the bill becomes an Act and the Centre notifies it, the ongoing Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojna and the central National Food for Work programme would be deemed to be schemes under the rural employment guarantee scheme, the bill says.

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