New Delhi, Jan. 16: After bringing right to information and the employment guarantee scheme in the realm of policy-making and legislation, the National Advisory Council has placed watershed development and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) as priority areas on its agenda.
The council, headed by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, sent its recommendations on the ICDS to the Centre on November 16 and submitted a note on the 'effectiveness and sustainability' of watershed development programmes on December 27.
The urgency of taking up the ICDS has been linked to a commitment made in the UPA's common minimum programme and watershed development is connected to the food-for-work scheme.
The note to the Centre, put on the Prime Minister's official website, stresses the need to integrate watershed development and the food-for-work programme as 'water conservation and water harvesting' top the list of tasks to be taken up under the Employment Guarantee Bill, which was introduced in the winter session of Parliament.
The council argues that there are several programmes for rehabilitating 'degraded' land but none addresses the 'livelihood concerns' of the landless peasants and women.
The note says the focus is on water harvesting through check dams and other structures and nothing is being done for the marginalised sections ' for instance, women who still have to walk long distances to fetch drinking water.
The thrust is on reorienting the programme to ensure that the fodder needs of the poor are taken care of and there are water bodies for fishing and trees for the landless.
A concrete solution the note throws up is empowerment of panchayats in the conservation of resources. This can be done by allowing them to charge and collect water and electricity costs from farmers. Another proposal is to integrate the ministries and departments dealing with land, water, agriculture and rural activities.