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Plea to lift job scheme funds freeze

Ranchi, Dec. 10: Jharkhand put in a request today for early release of MGNREGS funds, blocked by the Centre for poor utilisation, after discussions with Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh during his whistle-stop tour of the state yesterday.

In a letter written by deputy chief minister Sudesh Mahto, the state has pointed out that as many as 20 districts had been able to utilise over 60 per cent of first installment funds under the rural job guarantee scheme his fiscal.

Mahto also raised various other demands, including an additional one lakh houses for BPL families under Centre’s Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) and the posting of one more rojgar sevak each at all 56 villages of Saranda covered under an ambitious development plan worth Rs 249 crore.

“The state is unable to fulfil demands of IAY beneficiaries as there is a Centre-imposed cap on the number of beneficiaries. I had a talk with the Union rural development minister yesterday and today faxed, mailed and posted a letter mentioning the three main demands,” Mahto told The Telegraph.

Under IAY, a BPL household is provided assistance of Rs 45,000 to build a pucca house while in hilly and difficult terrains, the amount is marginally higher at Rs 48,000.

This year, the state is entitled to get 65,000 Indira Awas homes. But, rural development department sources said since 1996, only about 8.5 lakh of 35 lakh BPL families were benefited by the IAY scheme.

“There is much demand of the scheme from every block in all 24 districts. So we have requested Union rural development ministry to give us more sanctions. We are hopeful of one lakh more IAY units this fiscal,” said Paritosh Upadhyaya, special secretary in the state rural development department.

That’s the reason behind Jharkhand’s demand for another lakh additional houses.

Special secretary in the state rural development department A.K. Prabhakar said Jharkhand had been able to utilise around Rs 650 crore of the Rs 760 crore released to various districts under MGNREGS.

The last time it was granted job scheme funds was in October.

“After the harvest season ends in a week or so, it will be the main working season under MGNREGS schemes and the state will be able to utilise much more funds in the next four months,” he explained.

Yesterday, during his meeting with Mahto, Ramesh agreed to extend all possible help to the state to pursue the Centre’s flagship rural employment scheme.

The Union minister also clarified that even habitats with 100 residents would be linked by all-weather roads under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY).