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Delayed wage payments hit rural job scheme: minister

Delays in wage payments are reducing the demand for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has said.

"An increase in agricultural wage rates is the most powerful impact of the (scheme)," the minister said here Monday.

"However, delays in wage payments are reducing demand for (it) and may call for cash payments in some areas to ensure that the rural poor benefit from the true potential of the act", he added.

The minister was speaking at a day-long consultation organised by the ministry of rural development and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Looking beyond delayed wage payments, the minister called on participants to examine ways so that MGNREGA can be leveraged to create durable assets that improve the productivity of small and marginal families.

Said B.K. Sinha, secretary in the ministry: "Indian agriculture is in an evolutionary state. MGNREGA has the potential to usher in a second green revolution and correct social wrongs provided we have the wisdom to guide this revolutionary programme."

According to Mihir Shah, a member of the Planning Commission, the key challenge was to trigger greater awareness among potential rural workers, especially among the tribals and Dalits.

This could drive the demand for work, particularly at block level where deprivation is most intense across the country.

"To facilitate the demand for work and strengthen gram panchayats, the Planning Commission working group has recommended increase in the number of technical resource persons that can support gram panchayats and help create a shelf of projects that can funded through MGNREGA," he added.

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