New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday said his government's flagship MGNREGA scheme had accelerated the pace of financial inclusion in villages while Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said it could usher in a second 'Green Revolution' but corruption in the scheme had to be checked.
Speaking at the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) anniversary function here, Manmohan Singh said that over four crore bank accounts have been opened after the implementation of the scheme, and many more have been started in post offices.
"These accounts will also help in the direct cash benefit transfer scheme," the prime minister said.
Gandhi, also the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson, stressed the need to check complaints of corruption and misuse of money under MGNREGA.
Noting the scheme faces challenges of greater inclusion and creating durable assets, she said there was need to implement the scheme effectively in Maoist-affected areas and all steps should be taken to provide work under the scheme within 15 days of demand having been made.
She also called for timely social audit under the scheme.
The prime minister, in his speech, asked the rural development ministry to collaborate with states to provide technical assistance to panchayats.
"It will help empower Panchayati Raj Institutions, improve participation of people in development process and allow proper formulation of labour budget under the local development plan," he said.
The prime minister said construction of anganwadis had been added to new works under MGNREGA approved last year.
"If resources under ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme) and MGNREGA were used collectively, it will significantly improve services under ICDS," he said.
He said amended rules were being formally implemented from Saturday and stress had been laid on improving planning, increasing role of panchayats and improving quality of assets.
Terming MGNERGA as the biggest poverty alleviation schemes in the world, the prime minister said over eight crore people had benefited and Rs 1.3 lakh crore had been spent on it.
He said schemes such as MGNREGA reflect the stress being laid by the government on inclusive development.
"More than half of the works have benefited the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and participation of women has been around 47 percent. Of the money going to women, more than eighty percent is going to their bank accounts. It is helping them take economic decisions," the prime minister said.
Recalling indirect benefits of the scheme, he said it had reduced forced migration of people and improved crop yield of small farmers.
In her speech, Gandhi laid emphasis on empowerment of panchayats and meeting challenges in implementation of the scheme.
She said people were, at times, not aware of all the benefits under the scheme, and its potential to increase agricultural production was not being used fully.
"If modern agricultural techniques are added, it can lead to manifold increase in production. MGNREGA can play a role in realizing goal of second green revolution," she said.
Gandhi said while women participation was nearly equal at national level, they find it difficult "to come in many states due to lack of information or lack of facilities."
She said there was need to create durable assets under the scheme.
"Often there are complaints of corruption and misuse of money. There is need to curb it. Social audit is necessary and should be held timely," Gandhi said.
MGNREGA aims at enhancing the livelihood security of villagers by guaranteeing 100 days of wage-employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members would perform unskilled manual work.